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Samuel Aparicio, BM, BCh, PhD, FRCPath FRSC

Nan & Lorraine Robertson Chair in Breast Cancer Research
Canada Research Chair in Molecular Oncology
Distinguished Scientist and Head, Department of Molecular Oncology,
BC Cancer, a part of the Provincial Health Services Authority
Professor, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
Fellow, Royal Society of Canada, Life Science Division
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Canada

Current Research

  • Seeking novel strategies for personalized therapy in triple negative breast cancer. 
  • Laboratory studies are conducted to verify a marker to predict response to therapy.
  • These studies may help to identify patients most likely to respond to drugs that damage DNA

Drugs that damage tumor cell DNA are effective in many but not all triple negative breast cancers (TNBC). Identifying those patients most likely to benefit will be a significant advance for treatment of TNBC. Dr. Aparicio has observed altered patterns in chromosomes that he believes may predict response to DNA damaging drugs. 

Full Research Summary

The simplest classification of breast cancer comes from the presence of one or more molecular markers: estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and HER2. Breast cancers that have none of these markers are collectively classified as triple negative. 

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is not one disease, however but a group of diseases that we are only beginning to understand. BCRF-funded researchers have recently identified distinct subclasses of TNBC that differ in their molecular profiles, prognosis and response to treatment, highlighting a complex heterogeneity of TNBC tumors that complicates the development of targeted therapies. 

Dr. Aparicio’s group recently observed distinct patterns in the structure of chromosomes in many triple negative breast cancers. They believe these patterns are cancer-specific deficiencies that may predict whether the tumor cells will be sensitivity to drugs that directly target DNA. 

In his BCRF research, Dr. Aparicio will test this idea in laboratory models of TNBC that mimic the specific forms of chromosomal shuffling.  Through this work they hope to show that these patterns of chromosomal rearrangement do in fact in predict responses to DNA-damaging chemotherapy and to further test this in a future clinical trial.


Dr. Samuel Aparicio (BM, BCh, PhD, FRCPath) is the Nan & Lorraine Robertson Chair in Breast Cancer Research, holds the Canada Research Chair in Molecular Oncology, and is the recipient of the 2014 Aubrey J Tingle Prize. He is also Head of the BCCA’s Department of Breast and Molecular Oncology, and a Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UBC.HE graduated in medicine from Cambridge undertook clinical training in Oxford, subsequently in internal medicine and pathology. After doctoral work with Sydney Brenner in Cambridge he held a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship at the Wellcome/CRUK Developmental Biology Institute. From 2000-2005 he was a senior investigator in the Department of Oncology, Cambridge. He was a co-leader of the international consortium that sequenced the genome of the pufferfish Fugu rubripes in 2002 and a visiting professor at the IMCB, Singapore. 

Dr. Aparicio’s research program encompasses the fields of cancer genomics, laboratory genetic models, high throughput screens, small molecule chemical probes and translational breast cancer research. His most recent work on the molecular taxonomy of breast cancer led to identification of new genes that could change the way breast cancer is diagnosed and form the basis of next-generation treatments. This discovery was preceded by another breakthrough in decoding the genetic makeup of the most-deadly form of breast cancer, known as triple negative subtype. Dr. Aparicio is also working to develop quantitative measures of clonal fitness in patients, including methods for single cell genome sequencing and PDX models of human cancer. He collaborates widely with other groups, with current projects including the genomic and biochemical analysis of lymphoma, ovarian cancer, and several rare pediatric cancers. He was a co-founder of Paradigm Therapeutics (now, Takeda Cambridge) and currently Contextual Genomics Ltd. 

As a physician-scientist, the key philosophy of Dr. Aparicio’s program has been to provide a strong multidisciplinary environment for training of highly qualified personnel (HQP). His former trainees (career total 90) have gone on to success in academia: 1 institute director, 3 as PIs and others in medicine or in senior positions in industry or postgraduate education. All of his graduate students have been successful in securing national (CIHR, NSERC) or provincial (Michael Smith Foundation, CBCF BC/Yukon) competitive salary support and two of the four postdoctoral fellows are supported by independent peer reviewed salary awards from international (Australia), national (CBCF) and provincial (MSFHR) funding bodies. 

Dr. Aparicio has published 172 papers in genomics and genetics of disease with >35,000 citations (H-index 77, i10 index 151). He has published in such high impact journals as: New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Cell, Science, Nature Medicine, Nature Genetics, Nature Methods, Cell Stem Cell and Cell Metabolism.

Grid Reasercher Headshot - Aparicio Samuel

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Estée Lauder Companies' Canada Award

Area(s) of Focus