Megan Hitchins is an Associate Professor in the Division of Oncology at Stanford University School of Medicine and the Laboratory Head for Hitchin's lab at Stanford University. Her research focus is the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms (and their interactions) underlying human disease, initially in genomic imprinting and its disruption in congenital disorders and more recently in cancer predisposition and outcomes. Her expertise gained at renowned institutions in London and Sydney. She has published over 50 peer-reviewed papers, reviews and book chapters, most notably first-author original research papers in the leading journals N Engl J Med, Nat Genet, Cancer Cell, Am J Hum Genet, Gastroenterology, and reviews in Nat Rev Cancer. She has received widespread national media attention in Australia for the seminal discovery of non-Mendelian and Mendelian transmission patterns of constitutional MLH1 epimutations in 2007 and 2011. Her work was featured in various articles and newsletters from philanthropic agencies. She was invited to be a speaker at national and international conferences and public addresses. Her natural ability to teach landed her first faculty position in 2005 at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. From 2008 until her departure in 2013, 100% of her salary was covered through prestigious nationally competitive fellowships acquired from government organizations.

Academic Appointments

Honors & Awards

  • Career Development Top-up Award, Cancer Institute NSW, Australia (2013)
  • Biomedical Level II Career Development Fellowship, National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia (2014)
  • Career Development Fellowship, Cancer Institute NSW, Australia (2011)
  • PhD Scholarship, UK Medical Research Council (1998)
  • Ron Nutkins Award, Ron Nutkins (1994)

Professional Education

  • PhD, University College London, Clinical Genetics (1999)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Child Health, Molecular Embryology (2003)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Imperial College, Genomic Imprinting (2001)
  • BSc (Hons I), University of East London, Applied Biology (1994)


Stanford Advisees


All Publications

  • Milestones of Lynch syndrome: 1895-2015 NATURE REVIEWS CANCER Lynch, H. T., Snyder, C. L., Shaw, T. G., Heinen, C. D., Hitchins, M. P. 2015; 15 (3): 181-194


    Lynch syndrome, which is now recognized as the most common hereditary colorectal cancer condition, is characterized by the predisposition to a spectrum of cancers, primarily colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer. We chronicle over a century of discoveries that revolutionized the diagnosis and clinical management of Lynch syndrome, beginning in 1895 with Warthin's observations of familial cancer clusters, through the clinical era led by Lynch and the genetic era heralded by the discovery of causative mutations in mismatch repair (MMR) genes, to ongoing challenges.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nrc3878

    View details for Web of Science ID 000350296100011

    View details for PubMedID 25673086

  • Expression of GBGT1 is epigenetically regulated by DNA methylation in ovarian cancer cells BMC MOLECULAR BIOLOGY Jaco, F., Hitchins, M. P., Fedier, A., Brennan, K., Nixdorf, S., Hacker, N. F., Ward, R., Heinzelmann-Schwarz, V. A. 2014; 15
  • The MLH1 c.-27C > A and c.85G > T variants are linked to dominantly inherited MLH1 epimutation and are borne on a European ancestral haplotype EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF HUMAN GENETICS Kwok, C., Vogelaar, I. P., van Zelst-Stams, W. A., Mensenkamp, A. R., Ligtenberg, M. J., Rapkins, R. W., Ward, R. L., Chun, N., Ford, J. M., Ladabaum, U., McKinnon, W. C., Greenblatt, M. S., Hitchins, M. P. 2014; 22 (5): 617-624


    Germline mutations of the DNA mismatch repair genes MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 or PMS2, and deletions affecting the EPCAM gene adjacent to MSH2, underlie Lynch syndrome by predisposing to early-onset colorectal, endometrial and other cancers. An alternative but rare cause of Lynch syndrome is constitutional epimutation of MLH1, whereby promoter methylation and transcriptional silencing of one allele occurs throughout normal tissues. A dominantly transmitted constitutional MLH1 epimutation has been linked to an MLH1 haplotype bearing two single-nucleotide variants, NM_000249.2: c.-27C>A and c.85G>T, in a Caucasian family with Lynch syndrome from Western Australia. Subsequently, a second seemingly unrelated Caucasian Australian case with the same MLH1 haplotype and concomitant epimutation was reported. We now describe three additional, ostensibly unrelated, cancer-affected families of European heritage with this MLH1 haplotype in association with constitutional epimutation, bringing the number of index cases reported to five. Array-based genotyping in four of these families revealed shared haplotypes between individual families that extended across ≤2.6-≤6.4 megabase regions of chromosome 3p, indicating common ancestry. A minimal ≤2.6 megabase founder haplotype common to all four families was identified, which encompassed MLH1 and additional flanking genes and segregated with the MLH1 epimutation in each family. Our findings indicate that the MLH1 c.-27C>A and c.85G>T variants are borne on a European ancestral haplotype and provide conclusive evidence for its pathogenicity via a mechanism of epigenetic silencing of MLH1 within normal tissues. Additional descendants bearing this founder haplotype may exist who are also at high risk of developing Lynch syndrome-related cancers.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ejhg.2013.200

    View details for Web of Science ID 000334600400010

    View details for PubMedID 24084575

  • Dawning of the epigenetic era in hereditary cancer. Clinical genetics Hitchins, M. P., Lynch, H. T. 2014; 85 (5): 413-416

    View details for DOI 10.1111/cge.12369

    View details for PubMedID 24588205