Professor Maija Kohonen-Corish is a molecular geneticist with a long track record of discovery in translational research, including cancer genetics and colitis-associated cancer. She completed BSc and MSc at the University of Helsinki in Finland.
This was followed by a PhD in human genetics at John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra, where she also established one of the first laboratories in Australia to identify the inherited gene mutations in Lynch Syndrome families (1991 – 2000). She obtained certification in molecular genetics by the Human Genetics Society of Australasia in 2005. She was the head of lung and colon cancer research at Garvan Institute of Medical Research 2002 – 2017 and was awarded the Cancer Institute NSW Fellowship for the maximum 3 terms (2005 – 2014). During this time she discovered new biomarkers of lung and colon tumours and developed a new mouse model of proximal colon cancer which resembles the mesenchymal subtype in humans. Her laboratory described two novel tumour suppressor functions for the MCC gene in DNA repair and cell-cell adhesion. They also established a MCC-knockout mouse that has provided a new model for colitis-associated cancer.
She was appointed Director of the Woolcock Centre for Lung Cancer Research in 2019 to investigate the role of the microbiome in lung cancer and its links to the efficacy of immunotherapy. She also continues to study the cancer risk in inflammatory bowel disease and to test possible new cancer therapies by exploiting the DNA repair defect caused by MCC silencing. She is an invited member of the Variant Interpretation Committee of the International Society for Gastrointestinal Hereditary Tumours that produces international guidelines how to interpret the pathogenicity of the inherited gene defects in Lynch Syndrome.