Our People

Associate Professor Maija Kohonen-Corish

St. George Clin Sch- Operating



Research Interests: A/Prof Kohonen-Corish has a 24-year track record of discovery in cancer research, including the genetic basis of colon cancer, translational research and the development of mouse models. She completed her PhD in Human Genetics at John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra. She then established a cancer genetics laboratory at the ANU to study the genetic basis of Lynch Syndrome. She was the head of colon and lung cancer research at Garvan Institute between 2002 – 2018. She has joined the Microbiome Research Centre at UNSW Sydney to study the role of the human microbiota in cancer and its treatment.

Broad Research Areas:
Cancer, Cell Biology and Gene Regulation, Gastrointestinal Diseases, Genetics - Genome Analysis


Current position:
Associate Professor, St George and Sutherland Clinical School, UNSW Sydney

2005-2014: Cancer Institute NSW Career Development Fellow

Research activities: 

Colorectal and lung cancers are among the most common malignancies. We are identifying new biomarkers of prognosis and therapeutic responsiveness, in order to improve the clinical management of cancer. We aim to understand how and why cancer develops and how it should be best treated. This work involves three main approaches (1) study of tissue specimens from patients (2) analysis of cancer cells grown in cell culture and (3) study of tumours in the mouse.

In colon cancer, we focus on the tumour suppressor gene MCC, which had been overlooked until we showed that it is epigenetically silenced in up to 50% of sporadic and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)-associated colorectal cancers. Since then, we have described new molecular functions for this gene which explain its role in tumour suppression and therapy responsiveness. MCC is emerging as an important multifunctional gene that regulates several cellular processes. We have also developed a new model of colitis-associated cancer using the MCC knockout mouse. This model has revealed novel findings about the very early steps of colon carcinogenesis in long-standing chronic IBD and the significance of MCC silencing in these tumours.

In lung cancer we aim to establish the composition and abundance of the microbiome in the healthy lung and determine how it changes in cancer. We also want to determine how the gut microbiome interacts with therapy responsiveness by monitoring its changes from diagnosis of cancer through the various first-line and second-line therapies.

Teaching & Supervision
I am available to supervise: 
Areas of supervision: 

Honours, Masters, PhD

Currently supervising: 

Penelope De Lacavalerie, PhD

Supervision keywords: 
colon cancer
lung cancer
cancer genetics