Principal Investigators


Dr. Dixie L. Mager — PhD

Distinguished Scientist

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Christine Kelly

Senior Secretary
Research Interest
Lab Members

Our research focuses on understanding the regulatory effects of transposable elements in normal and cancer cells and on the potential roles of ribosomal variation in cancer.

Dr. Dixie Mager obtained her BSc degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in physics.  She did her graduate work with Dr. Alan Bernstein at the Ontario Cancer Institute, Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, where she obtained MSc and PhD degrees.  After postdoctoral work in genetics with Dr. Oliver Smithies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she established her research group within the Terry Fox Laboratory. She is currently Distinguished Scientist at BC Cancer and Professor, Department of Medical Genetics, UBC.

For more details on Dr. Mager's research, please see her full publication list on PubMed.

  • Regulatory effects of transposable elements
  • Ribosomal variation in cancer

Our laboratory uses molecular and cellular biology approaches, coupled with bioinformatics, to address questions in gene regulation, genomic stability and malignancy.  We currently have two main areas of investigation.

First, we are studying how transposable elements influence gene regulation in normal and cancer cells. Nearly half of the human genome is composed of sequences related to transposable elements (TEs). These elements, which include endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), have colonized our genome during evolution and some are still mobile - causing cancer in mice and genetic disease in humans and animals.  The epigenetic state of TEs is often altered in cancer, a reflection of global epigenetic abnormalities associated with malignancy. Ongoing projects include: i) Characterizing genes that use TE-derived regulatory signals and ii) Determining the potential pathogenic role of epigenetic activation of ERVs and other TEs in human cancers.

Second, we have initiated research on ribosomal variation in cancer. The ribosome, which translates proteins from mRNA, is a complex of >80 proteins and 4 rRNAs. These components genetically vary between individuals and in cancer development. Our research focuses on detecting variations in the core ribosomal RNA that are specific to leukemias and solid tumors and how such variations alter translation in malignant cells. We are also exploring how discovery of these “onco-ribosomes” can be exploited as a novel target for cancer therapies.

Artem Babaian     PostDoctoral Fellow

Dr. Artem Babaian

Postdoctoral Fellow