University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Allan Balmain, PhD, FRS

Allan Balmain, PhD, FRS

Co-Leader, Cancer Genetics Program, and Director, Genome Analysis Core Facility, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Barbara Bass Bakar Distinguished Professorship in Cancer Genetics, UCSF

Cancer Center Program Memberships

Cancer Genetics

Research Summary

A major goal of our research for many years has been to use mouse genetics to understand the relationships between exposure to environmental carcinogens, including chemicals and radiation, and cancer susceptibility. We have generated mouse models that recapitulate the genetic heterogeneity in human populations, with a view to develop approaches to personalized diagnosis and treatment. The focus of our most recent projects is the development of “Systems Genetics” approaches to analysis of normal tissue biology, and the changes in the genome mutational landscapes and gene expression architecture that are induced by carcinogen exposure. These seek to integrate multidimensional data sets to provide a network view of normal genetic architecture in mouse and human tissues, and the perturbations that take place during development of benign tumors and their progression to metastasis. Studies to date have revealed important roles for genes and pathways linked to stem cell fate decisions, cell cycle control, inflammation, and immune regulation. These integrated systems approaches represent a novel and highly promising route to the identification of the critical interacting components of signaling pathways, and identification of the critical changes in expression networks that are linked to cancer. They will further provide a platform, using chemically induced tumors that have many point mutations, to design and test novel approaches to combinatorial therapy including radiotherapy and immunotherapy, and the development of biomarkers of responsiveness. Finally, analysis of mouse tumors induced by different carcinogens can provide a deeper understanding of the etiology and mutational origins of human cancers.


University of Glasgow, BSc, 1966, Hons. Chemistry
University of Glasgow, Ph.D., 1969, Organic Chemistry
University of Strasbourg, France, Postdoc, 1969-71
German Cancer Research Centre, Heidelberg, West Germany, Postdoc, 1971-72

Professional Experience

  • 1972-1976
    Tenured member of staff, German Cancer Research Centre, Heidelberg, Germany
  • 1976-1982
    Staff Scientist, Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, Glasgow
  • 1982-1994
    Group Leader, Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, Glasgow
  • 1987-1994
    CRC Special Appointment, Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, Glasgow
  • 1994-1996
    Director of Laboratory Research and Professor of Molecular Oncology, Dept. of Medical Oncology, University of Glasgow, Jerry Turner Fellow of the Cancer Research Campaign
  • 1996-1998
    Vice President, Research, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Richmond, CA
  • 1999-2001
    Professor of Cancer Genetics, Cancer Research Institute and Departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics, UCSF
  • 2001-present
    Barbara Bass Bakar Endowed Chair in Cancer Genetics, UCSF

Honors & Awards

  • Royal Society European Programme Fellowship
  • Alexander Von Humboldt-Stiftung Fellowship
  • 1995
    Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • 1999
    Elected to UICC (International Union Against Cancer) Roll of Honor
  • 2000
    Tom Connors Prize and lecture
  • 2007
    John B. Little Award, Harvard School of Public Health
  • 2011
    American Skin Association Achievement Award
  • 2015
    Elected Fellow of the Royal Society

Selected Publications

  1. Amendola CR, Mahaffey JP, Parker SJ, Ahearn IM, Chen WC, Zhou M, Court H, Shi J, Mendoza SL, Morten MJ, Rothenberg E, Gottlieb E, Wadghiri YZ, Possemato R, Hubbard SR, Balmain A, Kimmelman AC, Philips MR. KRAS4A directly regulates hexokinase 1. Nature. 2019 Dec; 576(7787):482-486.
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  2. Veniaminova NA, Grachtchouk M, Doane OJ, Peterson JK, Quigley DA, Lull MV, Pyrozhenko DV, Nair RR, Patrick MT, Balmain A, Dlugosz AA, Tsoi LC, Wong SY. Niche-Specific Factors Dynamically Regulate Sebaceous Gland Stem Cells in the Skin. Dev Cell. 2019 Nov 04; 51(3):326-340.e4.
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  3. Dodagatta-Marri E, Meyer DS, Reeves MQ, Paniagua R, To MD, Binnewies M, Broz ML, Mori H, Wu D, Adoumie M, Del Rosario R, Li O, Buchmann T, Liang B, Malato J, Arce Vargus F, Sheppard D, Hann BC, Mirza A, Quezada SA, Rosenblum MD, Krummel MF, Balmain A, Akhurst RJ. a-PD-1 therapy elevates Treg/Th balance and increases tumor cell pSmad3 that are both targeted by a-TGFß antibody to promote durable rejection and immunity in squamous cell carcinomas. J Immunother Cancer. 2019 Mar 04; 7(1):62.
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  4. Li S, Balmain A, Counter CM. A model for RAS mutation patterns in cancers: finding the sweet spot. Nat Rev Cancer. 2018 12; 18(12):767-777.
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  5. Reeves MQ, Kandyba E, Harris S, Del Rosario R, Balmain A. Multicolour lineage tracing reveals clonal dynamics of squamous carcinoma evolution from initiation to metastasis. Nat Cell Biol. 2018 06; 20(6):699-709.
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  6. Huang PY, Kandyba E, Jabouille A, Sjolund J, Kumar A, Halliwill K, McCreery M, DelRosario R, Kang HC, Wong CE, Seibler J, Beuger V, Pellegrino M, Sciambi A, Eastburn DJ, Balmain A. Lgr6 is a stem cell marker in mouse skin squamous cell carcinoma. Nat Genet. 2017 Nov; 49(11):1624-1632.
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  7. Quigley DA, Tahiri A, Lüders T, Riis MH, Balmain A, Børresen-Dale AL, Bukholm I, Kristensen V. Age, estrogen, and immune response in breast adenocarcinoma and adjacent normal tissue. Oncoimmunology. 2017; 6(11):e1356142.
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  8. Halliwill KD, Quigley DA, Kang HC, Del Rosario R, Ginzinger D, Balmain A. Panx3 links body mass index and tumorigenesis in a genetically heterogeneous mouse model of carcinogen-induced cancer. Genome Med. 2016 08 09; 8(1):83.
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  9. Quigley DA, Kandyba E, Huang P, Halliwill KD, Sjölund J, Pelorosso F, Wong CE, Hirst GL, Wu D, Delrosario R, Kumar A, Balmain A. Gene Expression Architecture of Mouse Dorsal and Tail Skin Reveals Functional Differences in Inflammation and Cancer. Cell Rep. 2016 07 26; 16(4):1153-1165.
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  10. Wang MT, Holderfield M, Galeas J, Delrosario R, To MD, Balmain A, McCormick F. K-Ras Promotes Tumorigenicity through Suppression of Non-canonical Wnt Signaling. Cell. 2015 Nov 19; 163(5):1237-1251.
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  11. McCreery MQ, Halliwill KD, Chin D, Delrosario R, Hirst G, Vuong P, Jen KY, Hewinson J, Adams DJ, Balmain A. Evolution of metastasis revealed by mutational landscapes of chemically induced skin cancers. Nat Med. 2015 Dec; 21(12):1514-20.
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  12. Adams CJ, Yu JS, Mao JH, Jen KY, Costes SV, Wade M, Shoemake J, Aina OH, Del Rosario R, Menchavez PT, Cardiff RD, Wahl GM, Balmain A. The Trp53 delta proline (Trp53?P) mouse exhibits increased genome instability and susceptibility to radiation-induced, but not spontaneous, tumor development. Mol Carcinog. 2016 09; 55(9):1387-96.
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  13. Hiraoka K, Inoue T, Taylor RD, Watanabe T, Koshikawa N, Yoda H, Shinohara K, Takatori A, Sugimoto H, Maru Y, Denda T, Fujiwara K, Balmain A, Ozaki T, Bando T, Sugiyama H, Nagase H. Inhibition of KRAS codon 12 mutants using a novel DNA-alkylating pyrrole-imidazole polyamide conjugate. Nat Commun. 2015 Apr 27; 6:6706.
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  14. Letteboer TG, Benzinou M, Merrick CB, Quigley DA, Zhau K, Kim IJ, To MD, Jablons DM, van Amstel JK, Westermann CJ, Giraud S, Dupuis-Girod S, Lesca G, Berg JH, Balmain A, Akhurst RJ. Genetic variation in the functional ENG allele inherited from the non-affected parent associates with presence of pulmonary arteriovenous malformation in hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia 1 (HHT1) and may influence expression of PTPN14. Front Genet. 2015; 6:67.
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  15. Chen J, Hackett CS, Zhang S, Song YK, Bell RJ, Molinaro AM, Quigley DA, Balmain A, Song JS, Costello JF, Gustafson WC, Van Dyke T, Kwok PY, Khan J, Weiss WA. The genetics of splicing in neuroblastoma. Cancer Discov. 2015 Apr; 5(4):380-95.
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  16. Westcott PM, Halliwill KD, To MD, Rashid M, Rust AG, Keane TM, Delrosario R, Jen KY, Gurley KE, Kemp CJ, Fredlund E, Quigley DA, Adams DJ, Balmain A. The mutational landscapes of genetic and chemical models of Kras-driven lung cancer. Nature. 2015 Jan 22; 517(7535):489-92.
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  17. Quigley D, Silwal-Pandit L, Dannenfelser R, Langerød A, Vollan HK, Vaske C, Siegel JU, Troyanskaya O, Chin SF, Caldas C, Balmain A, Børresen-Dale AL, Kristensen V. Lymphocyte Invasion in IC10/Basal-Like Breast Tumors Is Associated with Wild-Type TP53. Mol Cancer Res. 2015 Mar; 13(3):493-501.
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  18. Hackett CS, Quigley DA, Wong RA, Chen J, Cheng C, Song YK, Wei JS, Pawlikowska L, Bao Y, Goldenberg DD, Nguyen K, Gustafson WC, Rallapalli SK, Cho YJ, Cook JM, Kozlov S, Mao JH, Van Dyke T, Kwok PY, Khan J, Balmain A, Fan Q, Weiss WA. Expression quantitative trait loci and receptor pharmacology implicate Arg1 and the GABA-A receptor as therapeutic targets in neuroblastoma. Cell Rep. 2014 Nov 06; 9(3):1034-46.
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  19. Balmain A, Yuspa SH. Milestones in skin carcinogenesis: the biology of multistage carcinogenesis. J Invest Dermatol. 2014 Oct 10; 134(e1):E2-7.
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  20. Huang PY, Balmain A. Modeling cutaneous squamous carcinoma development in the mouse. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2014 Sep 02; 4(9):a013623.
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