Kathy Burns


Much of our genome is highly repetitive sequence derived from self-propagating mobile DNAs.

Dr. Burns is a physician-scientist and practicing hematopathologist at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Her research laboratory studies roles mobile DNAs play in human disease. She was one of the first people to develop a targeted method for amplifying mobile DNA insertion sites in the human genome, and showed that these are a significant source of structural variation. This was published in her first last author paper in Cell in 2010. Since that time, her laboratory has developed a monoclonal antibody to one of the proteins encoded for by Long INterspersed Element-1 (LINE-1) and showed its aberrant expression in a wide breadth of human cancers. She is interested to explore the utility of this protein as a clinical biomarker. As part of a Center for the Systems Biology of Retrotransposition, her group is continuing to develop high throughput tools to characterize these understudied sequences in genomes and to understand mechanisms underlying the expression and genetic stability of interspersed repeats in normal and malignant tissues. Finally, she has two R01 awards to study functional consequences of inherited sequence variants, and exciting evidence that these predispose to cancer risk and other disease phenotypes. Her lab is using a combination of genome wide association study (GWAS) analyses, custom RNA-seq analyses, semi-high throughput gene expression reporter assays, and murine models to pursue this hypothesis. Dr. Burns enjoys teaching and problem solving at the lab bench, and her research group includes postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.

Kathy completed her M.D., Ph.D. at Baylor College of Medicine and was recruited to Johns Hopkins for CP residency training in 2004. She served as Chief Resident in 2006. She participates in several activities within the Department of Pathology and is the Department Deputy Director for Research.