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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Michael Dean, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Information for Journalists

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Phone: 240-760-6600

Michael Dean, Ph.D.

Michael Dean, Ph.D.

Organization:National Cancer Institute
Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Laboratory of Translational Genomics
Address:8717 Grovemont Circle
ATC Room 134D


Dr. Michael Dean is a senior investigator in the Laboratory of Translational Genomics. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Biochemistry Department at the Boston University School of Medicine. He performed his postdoctoral studies at the National Cancer Institute, Center for Cancer Research (CCR), on the MET oncogene and cystic fibrosis gene. He is a member of the American Society of Human Genetics, Centre d'Etude du Polymorphisme Humaine (CEPH), the Human Genome Organization (HUGO), and an adjunct faculty member at Hood College. Before joining DCEG in 2015, Dr. Dean led the Human Genetics Section of the Cancer and Inflammation Program within CCR.

Research Interests

Dr. Dean is broadly interested in inherited (germline) genetic variation, somatic mutations in tumors, and the combined effect of both on cancer risk, progression, and response to therapy. While part of CCR, Dr. Dean participated in cloning genes (PTCH, VHL) involved in inherited cancers; characterized common variants associated with cancer; and sequenced the genomes of tumors to identify genes commonly altered. In the LTG, Dr. Dean is continuing his work on unlocking the mechanisms through which genetic alterations affect cancer risk. By evaluating the genetic factors of tumor as well as host, Dr. Dean is determining new biomarkers for early detection and treatment. He also continues his investigations into the genetic components of cancer health disparities in the U.S. and in Latin America.

Association to Function

Genome-wide association studies have been completed on most major cancer types and have revealed many chromosome regions that influence cancer risk. We have focused on a region including the MSMB and NCOA4 genes associated with prostate cancer, and demonstrated complex regulation of expression and splicing of these genes. We are also studying variations associated with renal cancer risk to understand their function.

Tumor Genomes

All cancer is genetic in the sense that all tumors have genetic alterations not present in normal tissue of the person with cancer. We have sequenced the exome (coding portion of the genome) of tumors from the bladder, cervical, kidney, prostate, and adrenal gland. These data have identified potential markers for early diagnosis and targets of therapy, and many somatic mutations of the genes involved in histone modification and chromatin remodeling. We will continue to explore these areas focusing on samples from the many large cohorts that DCEG has assembled. By studying samples with detailed epidemiological data, we hope to better apply genetics and genomics to understanding cancer.

Global Health and Cancer

Cancer is increasingly a global health problem. We have established studies of cervical and breast cancer in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, which are yielding important genetic differences as well as potential environmental factors.

For common cancers among adults, we are investigating the reasons behind the very high rates of cervical cancer in the region. We apply a molecular and genomic approach to this question, analyzing cancer tissue, blood samples, and standard epidemiological information on cases as well as genome sequencing.