Prof Susan Clark

Susan completed her BSc (Hons1) degree at the Australian National University, ACT, Australia in 1978 and graduated in 1982 with a PhD in Biochemistry, University of Adelaide, South Australia, mapping and sequencing human histone genes, under the supervision of Dr Julian Wells. Susan spent her postdo
Division Head - Genomics and Epigenetics

Senior Principal Research Fellow

Conjoint/Adjunct Role(s)

Conjoint Professor, St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW Sydney

Susan completed her BSc (Hons1) degree at the Australian National University, ACT, Australia in 1978 and graduated in 1982 with a PhD in Biochemistry, University of Adelaide, South Australia, mapping and sequencing human histone genes, under the supervision of Dr Julian Wells.

Susan spent her postdoctoral years at Biotechnology Australia from 1983-1988 leading studies on recombinant vaccine development and eukaryotic expression of human inhibin, Il-3 and GMCSF. In 1992, she returned to basic research as Group Leader of the Gene Regulation Unit at the Kanematsu Laboratories, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where she developed and implemented bisulphite sequencing for DNA methylation analysis.  In 2000, she established and headed the Epigenetics Group at the Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and in 2004 moved her group to the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and initiated and led the growth of the Epigenetics Research Program in the Cancer Research Division.  

Her DNA methylation studies over the last twenty years have initiated profound questions about the importance of epigenetics in early development and in disease, especially in cancer.  Susan has made extensive ground-breaking discoveries relating to DNA methylation patterns in normal and cancer genomes, that have led to the commercialization of new methylation-based tests for early cancer detection.  The techniques she pioneered in the early 1990s, including bisulphite sequencing, have revolutionised and now underpin the new era in epigen"omic" research. She was founding member of IHEC (International Human Epigenome Consortium) and led the formation of the AEpiA (Australian Epigenetics Alliance). 

She has a number of awards including the RPAH Research Medal in 2002, Julian Wells Medal in 2003, “Biochemisch Analytik Preis” for outstanding contribution for Methylation analysis in 2004.  In 2006 was elected a Fellow of the World Technology Network for Biotechnology, in 2009 was awarded one of Australia’s "Top Ten" National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC) Project Scientists and the Rotary Award for Vocational Excellence in 2012. 

Research Interests

Cancer Research
Disease Mechanisms
DNA methylation
Gene Expression
Molecular Genetics
Next Generation Sequencing

In the News

How genes drive prostate cancer: all in the packaging? - Nov 16, 2017
Ramaciotti Medal: high honours for Professor Susan Clark - Oct 18, 2017
Inaugural grant funds simultaneous breast and prostate cancer research - Sep 19, 2017
NHMRC: grants success for Garvan researchers - Dec 05, 2016
‘Forgotten molecule’ takes centre stage in cancer gene silencing - Sep 08, 2016
Epigenetics enters the arena of personalised medicine - Jul 01, 2016
A 3D view of the cancer genome - Jun 06, 2016
Nadine Watson lecture takes place at Garvan - Dec 07, 2015
NHMRC funding success for Garvan researchers - Nov 09, 2015
Garvan cancer researcher is the new face of Spanish science talent - Oct 23, 2015
Professor Susan Clark receives Make a Difference Award for outstanding cancer research - Aug 10, 2015
How some breast cancers become resistant to hormone therapy - Jul 15, 2015
Tagging DNA: Mislabelling the Cancer Genome - Jul 13, 2015
Professor Susan Clark elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science - May 25, 2015
Epigenetic signatures that differentiate triple-negative breast cancers - Feb 02, 2015
Garvan Institute scientists receive $10.7 million in NHMRC funding - Oct 22, 2014
Garvan receives $15.5 million in NHMRC funding round - Oct 25, 2013
New hope for hormone resistant breast cancer - Jul 23, 2013
Garvan and St Vincent’s Welcome Critical Prostate Cancer Funding for The Kinghorn Cancer Centre - May 17, 2013
Cancer study overturns current thinking about gene activation - Dec 14, 2012
Enhancing prostate cancer prognosis at the micro level - Aug 07, 2012
Four organisations use epigenetics to beat obesity - Jul 25, 2012
Rotary awards Garvan epigeneticist in 2012 - Mar 28, 2012
Potential for earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer - Jan 24, 2012
There is no such thing as identical where twins are concerned - Oct 12, 2011
Seminal shift in how we view cancer development - Jul 26, 2011
How we can better ‘mine’ our genome for information - Nov 04, 2010
What it might take to unravel the ‘lean mean machine’ that is cancer - Feb 22, 2010
Epigenetics featured in NHMRC ‘Ten of the Best Research Projects 2009’ - Aug 18, 2009
A step towards finding the cancer switch - Jun 17, 2009
New Australian Epigenome Alliance moves towards a Brave New World - Aug 23, 2008
Garvan cancer researcher wins Premier's Award - Jun 19, 2008
Cancer genetics to combine forces with nanotechnology to fight breast cancer - Oct 05, 2007

Awards and Honours

2013 - Senior Principal Research Fellowship (NHMRC)
2012 - Rotary Award for Vocational Excellence
2011 - Victor Chang Medal (Barbara Ell Seminar Series Lecturer)
2010 - Service to Science and Industry, North Shore Times, 50 year medal
2009 - Australia’s “Top Ten” (NHMRC) Scientist Award for 2009
2009 - Promoted Senior Principal Research Fellow (Garvan Institute)
2008 - Principal Research Fellowship (NHMRC)
2008 - Adjunct Professor, Faculty Medicine, University of NSW
2008 - Director’s Inaugural Women in Science Lecture Award (WEHI)
2006 - World Technology Award, finalist for 2006 for Biotechnology: the most innovative people in the science and technology world in 2006
2006 - Elected a Fellow of the World Technology Network for Biotechnology for contribution to Epigenetics technology
2004 - Principal Research Fellowship (NHMRC)
2004 - The Ruby Payne-Scott Award for women in Australian science
2004 - German Science Prize “Biochemisch Analytik Preis” (50,000 Euros) for outstanding contribution for Methylation analysis. Since 1970, this award has recognized the work of 27 world-renowned scientists, four of whom have subsequently gone on to win a Nobel Prize
2003 - Julian Wells Medal for “outstanding contribution to gene action and genome structure”, Lorne Genome conference
2002 - RPAH Research Medal for $50,000 for major contribution to research
1998 - Cancer Council NSW Travelling Award
1997 - DNA Methylation Imprinting and the Epigenetics of Cancer, AACR, Research Presentation Award, Puerto Rico
1978 - Commonwealth Post Graduate Research Award
1976 - CRAC Undergraduate Exchange Travelling Award to study at Cambridge


1982 - PhD, University of Adelaide, South Australia - Australia
1978 - BSc (Hons1) - Australian National University, ACT - Australia
1977 - BSc, Australian National University, ACT - Australia

Selected Publications

Stone A, Zotenko E, Locke WJ, Korbie D, Millar EK, Pidsley R, Stirzaker C, Graham P, Trau M, Musgrove EA, Nicholson RI, Gee JM and Clark SJ.  DNA methylation of oestrogen-regulated enhancers defines endocrine sensitivity in breast cancer.  Nat Commun 2015;6:7758.

Stirzaker C, Zotenko E, Song JZ, Qu W, Nair SS, Locke WJ, Stone A, Armstong NJ, Robinson MD, Dobrovic A, Avery-Kiejda KA, Peters KM, French JD, Stein S, Korbie DJ, Trau M, Forbes JF, Scott RJ, Brown MA, Francis GD and Clark SJ.   Methylome sequencing in triple-negative breast cancer reveals distinct methylation clusters with prognostic value.  Nat Commun 2015;6:5899.

Locke WJ, Zotenko E, Stirzaker C, Robinson MD, Hinshelwood RA, Stone A, Reddel RR, Huschtscha LI, Clark SJ.  Coordinated epigenetic remodelling of transcriptional networks occurs during early breast carcinogenesis.   Clin Epigenetics 2015;7(1):52.

Mahon KL, Qu W, Devaney J, Paul C, Castillo L, Wykes RJ, Chatfield MD, Boyer MJ, Stockler MR, Marx G, Gurney H, Mallesara G, Molloy PL, Horvath LG, Clark SJ; PRIMe consortium.  Methylated Glutathione S-transferase 1 (mGSTP1) is a potential plasma free DNA epigenetic marker of prognosis and response to chemotherapy in castrate-resistant prostate cancer.  Br J Cancer 2014;111(9):1802-9.

Bert SA, Robinson MD, Strbenac D, Statham AL, Song JZ, Hulf T, Sutherland RL, Coolen MW, Stirzaker C and Clark SJ. Regional activation of the cancer genome by long range epigenetic remodelling. Cancer Cell 2013; 23:9-22.

Hulf T, Sibbritt T, Wiklund ED, Patterson K, Song JZ, Stirzaker C, Qu W, Nair S, Horvath LG, Armstrong NJ, Kench JG, Sutherland RL, Clark SJ.  Epigenetic-induced repression of microRNA-205 is associated with MED1 activation and a poorer prognosis in localized prostate cancer.  Oncogene 2013;32(23):2891-9.

Valdes-Mora F, Song JZ, Statham AL, Strbenac D, Robinson MD, Nair SS, Patterson KI, Tremethick DJ, Stirzaker C and Clark SJ (2012). Acetylation of H2A.Z is a key epigenetic modification associated with gene deregulation and epigenetic remodeling in cancer. Genome Res 2012;22: 307-321.

Statham AL, Robinson MD, Song JZ, Coolen MW, Stirzaker C and Clark SJ. Bisulfite sequencing of chromatin immunoprecipitated DNA (BisChIP-seq) directly informs methylation status of histone-modified DNA. Genome Res 2012;22: 1120-1127.

Coolen MW, Stirzaker C, Song JZ, Statham AL, Kassir Z, Moreno CS, Young AN, Varma V, Speed TP, Cowley M, Lacaze P, Kaplan W, Robinson MD and Clark SJ. Consolidation of the cancer genome into domains of repressive chromatin by long-range epigenetic silencing (LRES) reduces transcriptional plasticity. Nat Cell Biol 2010; 12:235-246.

Hinshelwood RA, Huschtscha LI, Melki J, Stirzaker C, Abdipranoto A, Vissel B, Ravasi T, Wells CA, Hume DA, Reddel RR and Clark SJ. Concordant epigenetic silencing of transforming growth factor-beta signaling pathway genes occurs early in breast carcinogenesis. Cancer Res 2007; 67:11517-11527.

Frigola J, Song J, Stirzaker C, Hinshelwood RA, Peinado MA and Clark SJ (2006). Epigenetic remodeling in colorectal cancer results in coordinate gene suppression across an entire chromosome band. Nat Genet 38: 540-549.

Stirzaker C, Song JZ, Davidson B and Clark SJ. Transcriptional gene silencing promotes DNA hypermethylation through a sequential change in chromatin modifications in cancer cells. Cancer Res 2004; 64:3871-3877.

Song JZ, Stirzaker C, Harrison J, Melki JR and Clark SJ. Hypermethylation trigger of the glutathione-S-transferase gene (GSTP1) in prostate cancer cells. Oncogene 2002; 21:1048-1061.

Stirzaker C, Millar DS, Paul CL, Warnecke PM, Harrison J, Vincent PC, Frommer M and Clark SJ. Extensive DNA methylation spanning the Rb promoter in retinoblastoma tumors. Cancer Res 1997; 57:2229-2237.

Clark SJ, Harrison J and Frommer M. CpNpG methylation in mammalian-cells. Nat Genet 1995; 10:20-27.

Person portrait

Prof Susan Clark

Division Overview

Division Core Strengths Diagram