David Huntsman


Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer : cancer risk and the personal cost of preventive surgery (2017)

Germline CDH1 mutation carriers are at risk for early-onset diffuse gastric cancer and female carriers have an additional risk of lobular breast cancer. Reliable estimates of cancer risk are essential for genetic counselling and clinical management of mutation carriers. Prophylactic total gastrectomy (PTG) to eliminate the gastric cancer risk is an option for mutation carriers. Current information on post-surgical outcomes and quality of life is limited. The objectives of this research were 1) To improve the evidentiary basis of genetic counselling by deriving reliable estimates of cancer risk in CDH1 mutation carriers; 2) To catalogue a comprehensive list of all novel and previously reported germline mutations to date; and 3) To provide data on post-surgical clinical outcomes and to describe the impact of the surgery on participants’ quality of life. Methods: Penetrance was derived from 67 mutation-positive families comprising 4031 individuals (350 affected with gastric cancer and 99 with breast cancer). Participants were recruited through multiple sources for clinical outcomes and quality of life study. Hospital records provided information on clinical outcomes. All participants were asked to complete validated questionnaires measuring generic and condition specific QOL (PROMIS, EORTC and SF 36v.II) at a single point. Results: By age 75 years, the cumulative incidence of gastric cancer was 70% (95% confidence interval [CI], 40%-94%) for males and 56% (95% CI, 27%-90%) for females. The risk of breast cancer for females was 42% (95% CI, 23%-68%) by 75 years. The mutational landscape of CDH1 did not reveal mutational hotspots but several shared mutations are seen in unrelated families. The 53 participants who had undergone PTG reported frequent symptoms of fatigue (59%), abdominal pain (55%), and diarrhea (45%). Cognitive, role and social function plus the symptoms anxiety, pain, taste, dyspnea and diarrhea were significant predictor variables for quality of life (p
View record

PPP2R1A mutations in gynaecologic cancers: functional characterization and use in the genomic classification of tumours (2015)

Endometrial carcinoma is the most common gynaecological cancer in developed countries. The current endometrial pathologic classification system lacks reproducibility, which has hampered the development of new treatments for these cancers. The PP2A phosphatase complexes are responsible for regulating many cellular pathways, and may play a role in the deregulation of endometrial cancer-associated pathways. In this thesis, the role of PPP2R1A mutations in the subtype-specific classification of gynaecological tumours was investigated. Additionally, mutational profiles will be used to improve the classification of the subtypes of endometrial carcinomas. Lastly, the functional effect of mutant PPP2R1A on PP2A-subunit protein interactions will be determined, in the context of endometrial cancer cell lines. Next-generation and Sanger sequencing was used to determine the presence of mutations in endometrial and ovarian carcinomas. PPP2R1A isogenic endometrial-specific cell lines were generated using somatic cell gene knockout by homologous recombination. Co-immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry was used to determine effects of the PPP2R1A W257L mutation on its ability to interact with PP2A subunits. Subtype-specific somatic PPP2R1A mutations were identified in endometrial serous carcinomas. Low-grade endometrial endometrioid carcinomas were defined by mutations in the genes: ARID1A, PTEN, PIK3CA, CTNNB1, and KRAS, whereas high-grade endometrioid also harbor TP53 mutations. Endometrial serous carcinomas harbor mutations in PPP2R1A, FBXW7, PIK3CA and TP53. Consequently, the molecular profiles proved useful in assisting classification of tumours with overlapping morphological features that cause irreproducibility in diagnoses. Proteomic analysis of isogenic cell lines determined that the PPP2R1A W257L mutation disrupts interaction with PPP2R5C and PPP2R5D subunits. In addition, PPP2R1A mutated protein caused an increased interaction with the endogenous PP2A inhibitor SET/I2PP2A. The integration of mutational profiles and other genomic features will be used to improve clinical and pathological classification in endometrial tumours that are difficult to diagnose. PPP2R1A mutations are likely playing a role in the transformation of gynaecological carcinoma, by disrupting PP2A subunit interactions with tumour suppressor functions. Increased interaction of mutant PPP2R1A with SET/I2PP2A adds another layer of complexity to the tumour suppressive role of PP2A. In the future, targeting the PP2A complex with novel therapeutics could provide an alternative method for treating gyneacological cancers with poor outcomes.

View record

Characterization of hereditary cancer syndrome (2013)

No abstract available.

Clear cell ovarian carcinoma and emergence of the novel tumour suppressor gene ARID1A (2013)

Clear cell carcinomas (CCCs) are a subtype of ovarian cancer that is understudied, and whichdoes not respond well to conventional therapeutic strategies. There is a desperate need toclarify the genetic mechanisms of CCC to allow for the development of subtype specifictherapeutics. To determine genetic changes responsible for the development of CCC, wholetranscriptomes of 18 ovarian CCCs and one ovarian CCC cell line were sequenced. Somaticmutations were found in ARID1A in 6 samples. ARID1A encodes BAF250a, a key componentof the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex. ARID1A was sequenced in an additional210 ovarian carcinomas and a second CCC cell line, and BAF250a expression was measuredby immunohistochemistry (IHC) in an additional 455 ovarian carcinomas and over 3000 nonovarianmalignancies. Overall, ARID1A mutations were seen in 46% of CCCs and 30% ofendometrioid carcinomas (EC) implicating ARID1A as a tumour suppressor frequentlydisrupted in CCC and EC. Loss of the BAF250a protein correlated strongly with the presenceof ARID1A mutations. In two patients, ARID1A mutations and loss of BAF250a expressionwere evident in the tumour and contiguous atypical endometriosis, implicating ARID1A lossas an early event in tumourigenesis. Screening 3000 cases of different malignancies by IHCshowed loss of BAF250a was is most frequent in cancers of endometrial origin. Reversephase protein array (RPPA) for tumour samples with known ARID1A mutation statusrevealed a notable change pAKT-Thr³⁰⁸ (FDR
View record

The kisspeptin and GPR54 ligand-receptor pair in autocrine and endocrine signalling in cancer (2009)

Kisspeptins and their receptor, GPR54, mediate sex hormone release through stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and have been implicated as metastasis suppressors. Expression of kisspeptin and GPR54 has been associated with less invasive cancers as determined by RNA expression, and a multitude of in vitro studies has consistently shown that overexpression of either ligand or receptor in malignant cell lines results in a less invasive phenotype. We hypothesized that expression of GPR54/kisspeptin in epithelial malignancies is predictive of disease outcome and altering endogenous GPR54 signalling in malignant breast and ovarian epithelial cells could alter their metastatic properties. We have determined by immunohistochemistry that kisspeptin and GPR54 are independent favourable prognostic markers for ovarian carcinoma and are specific for the clear cell cancer subtype; the least characterized of the subtypes. Additionally, loss of GPR54 is associated with poor prognosis in node positive breast cancer patients and is also lost in prostate cancer and testicular germ cell nonseminomas as compared to more benign disease. Moreover, secreted kisspeptin is elevated above physiological levels in the plasma of women with gynaecological cancers, including ovarian cancer. We evaluated GPR54 expression across a panel of breast and ovarian cancer cell lines to create an in vitro model system with which to knockdown GPR54 expression using RNA interference. However, we discovered that endogenous GPR54 was internalized rather than localized to the plasma membrane of these cancer cell lines. Consequently, internal GPR54 was unable to signal through its canonical Gαq pathway. To discover novel genes involved in kisspeptin-GPR54 signalling, we assessed gene expression differences between the Gpr54 and Kiss1 knockout mice as compared to wildtype mice. Our novel candidate list provides insight into physiological signalling in the hypothalamus that can then be applied to epithelial anti-metastatic signalling. Our results also support the sex hormone negative feedback effect on kisspeptin expression as reported in the current literature.In summary, we have confirmed kisspeptin and GPR54 as favourable prognostic markers, are the first to report the intracellular localization of GPR54 in endogenously expressing cancer cell lines, and we have introduced a list of novel genes involved in signalling.

View record

Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Genetics of familial gastric cancer: Beyond E-cadherin (CDHI) locus (2014)

No abstract available.

Recent Tri-Agency Grants

The following is a selection of grants for which the faculty member was principal investigator or co-investigator. Currently, the list only covers Canadian Tri-Agency grants from years 2013/14-2016/17 and excludes grants from any other agencies.

  • ProMisE: A proactive Molecular-Based Classification Tool to Improve Endometrial Cancer Management - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Proof of Principle Phase 1 (2016/2017)
  • MD/PhD Program Grant (starting 2015-2016) - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - MD/PhD Program Studentship (2015/2016)
  • Canada Research Chair in genomic and oncologic pathology - Canada Research Chairs - Canada Research Chair Tier I (CIHR) (2015/2016)
  • Etiology of dyspareunia in endometriosis - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Operating Grant (2015/2016)
  • The clonal dynamics of ovarian cancers: phylogenetic models of chemosensitivity and resistance - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Foundation Scheme : 2014 1st Live Pilot - Stage 2 (2015/2016)
  • A population-based assessment of an ovarian cancer prevention program - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Operating Grant (2015/2016)
  • Etiology of dyspareunia in endometriosis - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Operating Grant Priority Announcement (2014/2015)
  • Molecular pathology of ovarian and uterine tumours - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - CIHR: Strategic Training Initiatives in Health Research (2013/2014)
  • Terry Fox Foundation Strategic Health Research Training Program in Cancer Research at CIHR - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - CIHR: Strategic Training Initiatives in Health Research (2013/2014)
  • Recurrent somatic DICER 1 mutations: Funcitional implication and role in oncogenesis - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Operating Grant (2013/2014)
  • PrOTYPE: An Enabling Technology to Improve Ovarian Cancer Care - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Proof of Principle Phase 1 (2013/2014)
  • The genetics of hereditary upper gastrointestinal cancers: beyond CDH1 germline mutations - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Operating Grant (2013/2014)
  • Centre for epigenomic mapping techniques - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Team Grant: Canadian Epigenetics, Environment, and Health Research Consortium (CEEHRC) (2013/2014)
  • Stipends: The role of mutations in microRNA biogenesis genes in cancer development - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - CIHR Fellowship (2013/2014)
  • PP2A protein serin/theonine phosphatase mutations in cancer: functional consequences and clinical relevance - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Operating Grant (2013/2014)
  • Genomic disruption in high-grade serous ovarian carcinomas: steady state or continuous drift? - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Operating Grant (2013/2014)
  • Personalized siRNA-based nanomedicines - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Emerging Team Grant (2013/2014)
  • Mutations in the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex genes: an alternative mechanism for ovarian carcinogenesis - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Operating Grant (2013/2014)
  • The Terry Fox New Frontiers Project in the genomics of form fruste tumours - new vistas on cancer biology and management - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - CIHR Team Grant Program (2013/2014)
  • Clinical and functional significance of a pathognomonic FOXL2 mutation in granulosa cell tumours of the ovary - Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) - Operating Grant (2013/2014)

Current Students & Alumni

This is a small sample of students and/or alumni that have been supervised by this researcher. It is not meant as a comprehensive list.

If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.