Tomlinson Lab

Gail Tomlinson, M.D., Ph.D.

Rank: Professor
Department: Pediatrics
Division: Chief of Hematology-Oncology
Office: 4.100.20
Tel: 210-562-9001

Our studies are aimed at understanding the underlying genetic basis of pediatric cancers with the goal of applying genetic knowledge to cancer prevention and control.

Dr. Tomlinson’s research interests are in translational aspects of childhood cancer genetic predisposition. Currently divide her research focus approximately equally between the study of genetic etiologies of pediatric embryonal tumors, particularly the childhood liver tumor, hepatoblastoma, and population genetics of cancer predisposition.

Such interests in hepatoblastoma have focused in part on defining genetic polymorphisms, which contribute to cancer risk. Because hepatoblastoma histologically resembles fetal and embryonal liver elements, we are currently focusing on genes which are crucial to embryonic growth and development. We are also focusing on the characterization of a recurring breakpoint region on chromosome 1q12 using fine-tiling oligonucleotide array comparative genomic hybridization. We have recently identified a candidate gene, NOTCH2, involved in hepatic development which is affected by this translocation breakpoint. We are investigating the biologic role of NOTCH2 in hepatoblastoma and in addition we are in the process of determining this gene’s translocation partners on other chromosomes.

She is also embarking on a comprehensive study of genetic risk factors specific to the population of Texas which is largely made up of Hispanic children who may have specific and unique risk factors for cancer. We have identified several polymorphisms which may serve to increase cancer risk in this population and are currently planning to extend these studies to include a study of gene-environmental interactions.

Lab Research

The Genetic Epidemiology of Childhood Cancer

  • Focus 1: We are interested in defining predisposition factors unique to the Hispanic population in South Texas.
  • Focus 2: We are interested in identifying genetic factors that may contribute to adverse effects of ALL chemotherapy in Hispanic children.

We have enrolled over 550 patients with ALL from our South Texas facilities.

Genetics and Biology of Liver Tumorigenesis in Children

Hepatoblastoma (HB) is the most common liver tumor in children. Liver tumors in children differ from those in adults in that they are not related to cirrhosis, but rather are thought to develop from result of abnormal developmental molecular pathways. A major problem in treating children with HB is the development of drug resistance. We have identified a gene, NFE2L2, which when activated may cause tumors to be resistant.

Focus 1: Determine biologic factors which at the time of diagnosis can predict response to theraphy.

Focus 2: Determine if NFE2L2 can be specifically trageted to decrease proliferation of tumor cells.


Genetic Risk Assessment and
Counseling iAll South Texas

A grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has enabled us to provide genetic counseling services to multiple sites in South Texas including our regional campuses in Laredo and Harlingen. To date we have had direct interaction with cancer risk assessment to over 8500 individuals and provided formal genetic counseling services to 575 individuals, most of whom have undergone molecular genetic testing as part of our program.

Collaborative Program with UIW in Retinoblastoma Research

Four years ago we established a summer research program for optometry students at the Rosenberg School of Optometry, led by Dr. Patricia Sanchez-Diaz, former post-doctoral fellow at Greehey CCRI and now Assistant Professor at University of the Incarnate Word (UIW). Optometry students learn about the molecular basis of retinoblastoma, an eye tumor of very young children and infants.

Lab Staff

Christine Aguilar, M.D., MPH
Faculty Associate

Clarissa Aviles 
Health Educator (Harlingen)

Hima Bansal            
Senior Research Associate

Shawn Gessay              
Genetic Counselor

Allison Grimes, M.D.     
Adjunct Faculty

Elena Marin             
Community Health Worker

Josep-Maria Peralba-Polo       
Research Associate – Senior

Luz Perez-Parado, Ph.D.
Research Area Spec Lead

Natalie Poullard   
Genetic Counselor

Anna Pulido-Saldivar, MPH    
Health Educator – Senior (Laredo)