Associate Professor

Clare Stirzaker

Epigenetics Demystified

Epigenetics plays a critical role in normal cellular differentiation and development. Epigenetic regulation of the genome is governed by many facets of epigenetic regulation, which include DNA methylation, chromatin modifications, nucleosome positioning and higher order chromatin structure. It is well established that normal epigenetic processes are commonly disrupted in disease, including cancer, contributing to alterations in the transcriptome and deregulation of cellular pathways.  Understanding the complex relationship between DNA methylation, chromatin modifications and underlying DNA sequence is a major focus in cancer biology. Genome-wide distribution of DNA methylation, post-translational histone modifications and chromatin structure are being extensively mapped by next-generation sequencing technologies, revealing the dynamic interplay between the epigenetic marks and how they are altered in disease states. Genetic changes to epigenetic modifiers can lead to aberrations of the normal epigenome, revealing the mechanisms underpinning altered cellular pathways in disease, and highlighting prospects for future epigenetic therapies.

Associate Professor Clare Stirzaker

Group Leader, Epigenetic Deregulation, Genomics and Epigenetics Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Clare completed her Bachelor of Science majoring in Biochemistry and Microbiology, and her Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours in Molecular Biology,  at the University of Cape Town, South Africa,  before completing  her PhD at Macquarie University, Sydney, graduating in 1990.

Clare became fascinated by the field of Epigenetics and joined the group of Prof Susan Clark as a post-doc at the Kanematsu Laboratories, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, in Sydney and later, at the Sydney Cancer Centre at Sydney University. The group moved to the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in 2004, where an Epigenetics Group was established within the Cancer Program.  Clare has since established her own group, which is interested in understanding “Epigenetic Deregulation in Cancer.”

Clare has played a major role in delivery of many of the milestones in epigenetic research.  She has made highly significant contributions to the field of DNA methylation and epigenetic deregulation in cancer and has also played an integral role in developing new epigenetic technologies that have underpinned many of the seminal findings of the group.

Clare is involved in a number of collaborative projects which include an NBCF project grant  ‘Enabling Clinical Epigenetic Diagnostics:  The Next Generation of Personalised Breast Cancer Care’ and an NHMRC project grant  with Monash University ‘Defining Epigenetic Changes in Prostate Cancer Stroma.’