Huntsman, David

Portrait photo of David  Huntsman


Huntsman, David


Academic Ranks(s):

Professor, UBC, Director Of Ovcare & Distinguished Scientist, Deputy Department Head



Short Bio

Dr. David Huntsman (MD, FRCPC, FCCMG) is the Dr. Chew Wei Memorial Professor of Gynaecologc Oncology, holds the Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Molecular and Genomic Pathology, and is a Professor in the Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UBC. He is also the co-Founder and Director of OVCARE, BC’s multidisciplinary gynecologic cancer research team.

Dr. Huntsman’s early research has provided most of the data that underpins the current management of hereditary gastric cancer. Over the past decade, his research has led to development of predictive and prognostic tissue based cancer biomarkers for ovarian cancer and a wide variety of other tumour types. His team created a blueprint for subtype specific ovarian cancer control and have been leaders in the application of novel genomic technologies to better prevent, diagnose and treat ovarian cancer. Specifically, next generation sequencing was used to discover the key driver mutations in granulosa cell and sertoli leydig cell tumours as well as clear cell, endometrioid and small cell ovarian carcinomas. These discoveries are being translated into improved diagnostics and treatment strategies. Based on research into precursor lesions, the OVCARE team has implemented a population based prevention strategy for ovarian cancer that includes opportunistic salpingectomy and more pervasive genetic screening. Dr. Huntsman’s most recent research has focused on the cellular origins of clear cell and endometrioid ovarian carcinomas, the role of somatic mutations in the development of endometriosis and the transformation of endometriosis into these cancers.

Collaboration and entrepreneurship are both critical ingredients of clinically relevant research. To that end Dr. Huntsman leads several Canadian and international collaborative networks and recently founded a company, Contextual Genomics, to increase the clinical and economic impact of his work.

Dr. Huntsman has been honoured with leadership and research excellence awards including the inaugural Ovarian Cancer Canada Virginia Greene Leadership Award (2011), the inaugural Ovarian Cancer Canada Karen Campbel Award for Research Excellence (2012), the Canadian Cancer Society William E. Rawls Prize (2013), the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre William Gerald Award for Translational Cancer Research and Pathology (2016), and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Aubrey T. Tingle Prize (2018).


UBC Department of Pathology
UBC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute
UBC Genome Science and Technology Graduate Program
UBC and BC Cancer Interdisciplinary Oncology Program
CIHR/MSFHR Bioinformatics Program


Professor, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Obstetrics & Gynaecology, University of British Columbia
Dr. Chew Wei Memorial Professor of Gynaecologic Oncology, University of British Columbia
Canada Research Chair in Molecular and Genomic Pathology
Director of OVCARE, Vancouver General Hospital, BC Cancer and University of British Columbia
Distinguished Scientist, Department of Molecular Oncology, BC Cancer Research Centre
Director of the Molecular Pathology Laboratory, Vancouver General Hospital
Associate Member, BC Cancer, Genome Sciences Center
Associate Member, University of British Columbia, Department of Medical Genetics
Associate Member, University of British Columbia, Department of Urologic Sciences
Associate Member, University of British Columbia, CIHR/MSFHR Bioinformatics Program
Associate Member, University of British Columbia and BC Cancer, Interdisciplinary Oncology Program
Associate Member, University of British Columbia, Genome Science and Technology Graduate Program
MD, Memorial University of Newfoundland 1988
Rotating Internship, Dalhousie University 1989
Pathology Residency, University of British Columbia 1995
Clinical Oncology and Cancer Genetics Fellowship, University of Cambridge 1999


Academic Background

  • FRCPC. 1995
  • MD – Memorial University Newfoundland, Canada. 1988

Awards and Recognition


Publications (Link to Pubmed)


Research Interest

Current Projects In My Lab Include

Oncogenic Significance of Subtype Specific Mutations

The clinical behaviour and potential management strategies for ovarian cancer subtypes are shaped by anatomic and biologic considerations, with the main determinants of biology being cell context and mutation. We are building on our key ovarian cancer mutation discoveries to investigate the basis of pathogenicity with the goal of using this information to improve treatment. Due to the histogenic specificity of the phenotypes, our lab is undertaking functional studies performed model systems derived from the appropriate cells of origin. Examples of this research include the use a 3D organoid culture system from primary endometrial epithelium to study factors that influence differentiation and the oncogenicity of mutations found in endometriosis and clear cell and endometrioid ovarian cancers. Using xenograft and transgenic murine models, we are studying both the cells of origin of the cancers as well as validating potential drug targets in these systems.

Biologically Informed Prevention Strategies for Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancers have historically suffered from generic treatment and prevention approaches that do not account for biologic and clinical differences between subtypes and research conducted without consideration of histotype, making interpretation of results and knowledge translation challenging. Using this subtype-specific approach, one of the key areas of my research program is to prevent disease by studying precursor lesions of ovarian cancer. Using genomic approaches, we are exploring the transformation events that lead to the transformation of endometriosis into clear cell and endometrioid cancers, the 2nd and 3rd most common ovarian cancer histotypes. The goal is to develop a risk model to identify women with endometriosis who are at increased risk of developing cancers. We are also studying the potential cells of origin for endometriosis-associated cancers through profiling the mutations found in ciliated and secretory cells of the endometrium.

Improved Diagnostics for Ovarian and Other Rare Cancers

Accurate diagnosis forms the foundation of effective cancer care. A fundamental aspect of my research is to develop effective diagnostics to guide appropriate therapies for gynaecological cancers. We were one of the original advocates of studying and treating various histological subtypes of ovarian cancer as distinct diseases, both in research and clinically. Using this research, my laboratory discovered key mutations driving several ovarian cancers and rapidly translated these findings into clinical diagnostics. In collaboration with the Proteomics Platform at the BC Cancer, we are using a proteomic-based strategy to develop and identify highly specific immunohistochemical markers to supplement standard pathology which can be more readily translated into global practice changes as compared to nucleic-acid based approaches. In particular, we are interested in studying the protein profiles to identify antibody targets that can discriminate between and accurately diagnose look-alike tumours, which will have an immediate positive impact on patient treatment.


Teaching Interest