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School of Medicine
Kathleen Helen Burns, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Pathology
Expertise: Hematologic Pathology, Hematopathology, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Pathology
Research Interests: Roles of transposable elements and other mobile DNAs in human disease
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
4940 Eastern Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21224 map
Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center
601 N. Caroline St.
Baltimore, MD 21287 map
The Johns Hopkins Hospital (Main Entrance)
1800 Orleans St.
Sheikh Zayed Tower
Baltimore, MD 21287 map
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.
- Professor of Pathology
- Professor of Oncology
- MD PhD, Baylor College of Medicine (2004)
- Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine / Pathology (2007)
- Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine / Pathology (2008)
- American Board of Pathology / Clinical Pathology (2008)
- American Board of Pathology / Pathology - Hematology (2008)
Research & Publications
My research laboratory studies roles mobile DNAs play in human disease. Our group was one of the first to develop a targeted method for amplifying mobile DNA insertion sites in the human genome, and we showed that these are a significant source of structural variation (Cell, 2010). Since that time, my group has continued to develop high throughput tools to characterize these understudied sequences in genomes and to describe the expression and genetic stability of interspersed repeats in normal and malignant tissues. We have 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 (Am J Pathology, 2014). We have demonstrated acquired LINE-1 insertion events during the evolution of metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and other gastrointestinal tract tumors (Nat Med, 2015). We have major projects focused on studying functional consequences of inherited sequence variants, and exciting evidence that these predispose to cancer risk and other disease phenotypes. My laboratory 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.
Lab Website: The Burns laboratory
Selected PublicationsView all on Pubmed
Rodic N, Steranka JP, Makohon-Moore A, Moyer A, Shen P, Sharma R, Kohutek ZA, Huang CR, Ahn D, Mita P, Taylor MS, Barker NJ, Hruban RH, Iacobuzio-Donahue CA,Boeke JD, Burns KH. Retrotransposon insertions in the clonal evolution of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Nat Med. 2015 Sep;21(9):1060-4. doi:10.1038/nm.3919. Epub 2015 Aug 10. PubMed PMID: 26259033; PubMed Central PMCID:PMC4775273.
Rodic N, Sharma R, Sharma R, Zampella J, Dai L, Taylor MS, Hruban RH, Iacobuzio-Donahue CA, Maitra A, Torbenson MS, Goggins M, Shih IeM, Duffield AS, Montgomery EA, Gabrielson E, Netto GJ, Lotan TL, De Marzo AM, Westra W, Binder ZA, Orr BA, Gallia GL, Eberhart CG, Boeke JD, Harris CR, Burns KH. Long interspersed element-1 protein expression is a hallmark of many human cancers. Am J Pathol. 2014 May;184(5):1280-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2014.01.007. Epub 2014 Mar 6. PubMed PMID: 24607009; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4005969.
Huang CR, Burns KH, Boeke JD. Active transposition in genomes. Annu Rev Genet. 2012;46:651-75. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-110711-155616. Review. PubMed PMID: 23145912; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3612533.
Burns KH, Boeke JD. Human transposon tectonics. Cell. 2012 May 11;149(4):740-52. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.04.019. Review. PubMed PMID: 22579280; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3370394.
Huang CR, Schneider AM, Lu Y, Niranjan T, Shen P, Robinson MA, Steranka JP, Valle D, Civin CI, Wang T, Wheelan SJ, Ji H, Boeke JD, Burns KH. Mobile interspersed repeats are major structural variants in the human genome. Cell. 2010 Jun 25;141(7):1171-82. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2010.05.026. PubMed PMID: 20602999; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2943426.
Academic Affiliations & Courses
Graduate Program Affiliation
Pathobiology Graduate Program
Activities & Honors
- National Merit Scholar, 1993
- National Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, 1995
- National Graduate Scholarship, Phi Kappa Phi, 1997
- National Graduate Scholarship, Alpha Lambda Delta, 1997
- Summa cum laude graduate, University of Southern Mississippi, 1997
- Research T32 Fellowship Award, National Eye Institute, 2001
- Lalor Foundation Travel Award, Society for the Study of Reproduction, 2002
- M.S.T.P. Research Publication Award, Baylor College of Medicine, 2003
- Outstanding Graduate Student, Baylor College of Medicine, 2004
- 10thAnnual Young Investigators’ Day Award for Excellence in Basic Research, Johns Hopkins University, 2008
- Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center Fellow Research Day Honorable Mention for Basic Research, Johns Hopkins University, 2008
- Career Award for Medical Scientists (CAMS), Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 2008
- M.S.T.P. Student’s Choice Award and Lectureship, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 2014
- American Society of Clinical Pathology
- American Society of Hematology
- United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology
Videos & Media
Lectures and Presentations
Cancer Biology and The "Junk" Genome
Partnering for Discovery Seminar; Turner Concourse (01/14/2015)
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
New Perspectives on Junk DNA; Keynote speaker
Medical Scientist Training Program, 5th Annual MD/PhD Student's Choice Award Recipient (01/15/2014)
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Five Steps Further: A Guide to Research
Undergraduate Research Symposium; College of Arts and Letters and the Center for Undergraduate Research (01/11/2014)
University of Southern Mississippi
Mapping and Functional Analysis of Transposable Element Insertions; Transposable Elements in the Brain and Other Tissues: Prevalence and Function Banbury Center
Cold Spring Harbor (01/01/2013)
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Profiling L1 and Alu Retrotransposon Polymorphism in Normal Samples and Cancer Cell Panels; A New Horizon of Retroposon Research
63rd Annual Fujihara Seminar Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Kyoto (01/31/2012)
Tokyo Institute of Technology
Repetitive DNA, DNA, DNA; PCTB 517
Center for Computational Genomics Seminar (01/14/2012)
Johns Hopkins Universiry School of Medicine
The Mobile Genome: Genetic and Physiological Impacts of Transposable Elements
Invited speaker, EMBO/EMBL Symposium, EMBL Advance Training Center (ATC), Heidelberg, Germany (09/17/2015)
Recent News Articles and Media Coverage
Kathleen Burns on Mobile DNA and Cancer (Fundamentals)