Photo of Laura MacConaill,  PhD

Laura MacConaill, PhD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Phone: (617) 582-7754

Laura MacConaill, PhD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute


  • Assistant Professor, Pathology, Harvard Medical School
  • Scientific Director, Profile, Pathology, Brigham And Women's Hospital
  • Scientific Director, Profile, Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute


Research Abstract

My work focuses on the development of novel and emerging technologies and

applying these to cancer genomic analyses. Our group was the first to apply mass-spectrometric genotyping to interrogate known oncogene mutations in tumor samples- a technology that was more sensitive, faster, and substantially cheaper than current sequencing approaches. We published this technology -OncoMap- and its

associated informatics approaches to rapidly profile cancer specimens. In 20016, we established the Center for Cancer Genome Discovery at DFCI. The goal of this center was to harness emerging technologies- like genotyping and massively parallel sequencing, to further our understanding of cancer genomes.Our ability to cost-effectively and sensitively assess targeted cancer genomes revolutionized precision cancer medicine by identifying the right genomic profile and an associated targeted therapy, as well as starting to identify low-level resistance mutations that emerged as a result of the applications of these therapies. Importantly, we optimized these technologies on “real-world” clinical specimens- often small, formalin-fixed,

paraffin embedded material yielding little DNA. Building on this capability, we initiated a large-scale, multi-institutional prospective epidemiology study called Profile. This initiative, a joint venture between Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, was launched in 2011 and offered CLIA-grade genomic profiling to all cancer patients, regardless of type, grade, stage or age. I also

collaborated with other cancer centers (particularly Asan Medical Center in Korea) to establish genomic profiling efforts at their institutions.

Our group was also the first to apply a hybrid-capture approach to specifically target regions of interest in the genome (in this case, known cancer genes) for analysis using massively-parallel sequencing. We applied this in research projects as well as in our clinical program called Profile. This technology advance enabled characterization of common and rare cancer types to a degree previously unattainable. We also published

several novel algorithms for analysis of this data, as well as technical papers on how to deploy this technology in a clinical space. Most recently, we published an initial landscape of the first ~3700 cancer patients analyzed.

To date, we have profiled over 22,000 cancer patients – one of the largest resources in an academic cancer center in the world. We deposit our results in a central knowledgebase that can be linked to clinical outcomes data and enables ongoing research. I am a contributor to AACR Project GENIE, an international collaboration

of cancer centers to share genomic and clinical data. Going forward, we continue to develop new capabilities and deploy these in the clinical setting- RNA sequencing, circulating tumor DNA detection, viral sequencing; as well as developing new algorithms for detection of structural rearrangements, viral sequences, mutational burden and mutational signatures.


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  • Starrett GJ, Thakuria M, Chen T, Marcelus C, Cheng J, Nomburg J, Thorner AR, Slevin MK, Powers W, Burns RT, Perry C, Piris A, Kuo FC, Rabinowits G, Giobbie-Hurder A, MacConaill LE, DeCaprio JA. Clinical and molecular characterization of virus-positive and virus-negative Merkel cell carcinoma. Genome Med 2020; 12:30. PubMed
  • Slevin MK, Wollison BM, Powers W, Burns RT, Patel N, Ducar MD, Starrett GJ, Garcia EP, Manning DK, Cheng J, Hanna GJ, Kaye KM, Van Hummelen P, Nag A, Thorner AR, DeCaprio JA, MacConaill LE. ViroPanel: Hybrid Capture and Massively Parallel Sequencing for Simultaneous Detection and Profiling of Oncogenic Virus Infection and Tumor Genome. J Mol Diagn 2020. PubMed
  • Christakis AG, Papke DJ, Nowak JA, Yurgelun MB, Agoston AT, Lindeman NI, MacConaill LE, Sholl LM, Dong F. Targeted Cancer Next-Generation Sequencing as a Primary Screening Tool for Microsatellite Instability and Lynch Syndrome in Upper Gastrointestinal Tract Cancers. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2019; 28:1246-1251. PubMed
  • Kacew AJ, Harris EJ, Lorch JH, Haddad RI, Chau NG, Rabinowits G, LeBoeuf NR, Schmults CD, Thakuria M, MacConaill LE, Hanna GJ. Chromosome 3q arm gain linked to immunotherapy response in advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. Eur J Cancer 2019; 113:1-9. PubMed
  • Barretina J, Caponigro G, Stransky N, Venkatesan K, Margolin AA, Kim S, Wilson CJ, Lehár J, Kryukov GV, Sonkin D, Reddy A, Liu M, Murray L, Berger MF, Monahan JE, Morais P, Meltzer J, Korejwa A, Jané-Valbuena J, Mapa FA, Thibault J, Bric-Furlong E, Raman P, Shipway A, Engels IH, Cheng J, Yu GK, Yu J, Aspesi P, de Silva M, Jagtap K, Jones MD, Wang L, Hatton C, Palescandolo E, Gupta S, Mahan S, Sougnez C, Onofrio RC, Liefeld T, MacConaill L, Winckler W, Reich M, Li N, Mesirov JP, Gabriel SB, Getz G, Ardlie K, Chan V, Myer VE, Weber BL, Porter J, Warmuth M, Finan P, Harris JL, Meyerson M, Golub TR, Morrissey MP, Sellers WR, Schlegel R, Garraway LA. Addendum: The Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia enables predictive modelling of anticancer drug sensitivity. Nature 2018. PubMed
  • Hamid AA, Gray KP, Shaw G, MacConaill LE, Evan C, Bernard B, Loda M, Corcoran NM, Van Allen EM, Choudhury AD, Sweeney CJ. Compound Genomic Alterations of TP53, PTEN, and RB1 Tumor Suppressors in Localized and Metastatic Prostate Cancer. Eur Urol 2018. PubMed
  • Mirkovic J, Dong F, Sholl LM, Garcia E, Lindeman N, MacConaill L, Crum CP, Nucci MR, McCluggage WG, Howitt BE. Targeted Genomic Profiling of Female Adnexal Tumors of Probable Wolffian Origin (FATWO). Int J Gynecol Pathol 2018. PubMed
  • Craig JW, Quade BJ, Muto MG, MacConaill LE. Endometrial cancer with an rearrangement. Cold Spring Harb Mol Case Stud 2018. PubMed
  • Kolin DL, Dong F, Baltay M, Lindeman N, MacConaill L, Nucci MR, Crum CP, Howitt BE. SMARCA4-deficient undifferentiated uterine sarcoma (malignant rhabdoid tumor of the uterus): a clinicopathologic entity distinct from undifferentiated carcinoma. Mod Pathol 2018. PubMed
  • Hanna GJ, Lizotte P, Cavanaugh M, Kuo FC, Shivdasani P, Frieden A, Chau NG, Schoenfeld JD, Lorch JH, Uppaluri R, MacConaill LE, Haddad RI. Frameshift events predict anti-PD-1/L1 response in head and neck cancer. JCI Insight 2018. PubMed
  • MacConaill LE, Burns RT, Nag A, Coleman HA, Slevin MK, Giorda K, Light M, Lai K, Jarosz M, McNeill MS, Ducar MD, Meyerson M, Thorner AR. Unique, dual-indexed sequencing adapters with UMIs effectively eliminate index cross-talk and significantly improve sensitivity of massively parallel sequencing. BMC Genomics 2018; 19:30. PubMed
  • Sholl LM, Do K, Shivdasani P, Cerami E, Dubuc AM, Kuo FC, Garcia EP, Jia Y, Davineni P, Abo RP, Pugh TJ, van Hummelen P, Thorner AR, Ducar M, Berger AH, Nishino M, Janeway KA, Church A, Harris M, Ritterhouse LL, Campbell JD, Rojas-Rudilla V, Ligon AH, Ramkissoon S, Cleary JM, Matulonis U, Oxnard GR, Chao R, Tassell V, Christensen J, Hahn WC, Kantoff PW, Kwiatkowski DJ, Johnson BE, Meyerson M, Garraway LA, Shapiro GI, Rollins BJ, Lindeman NI, MacConaill LE.. Institutional implementation of clinical tumor profiling on an unselected cancer population. 2016.