Our People

Tracy O’Mara

Associate Professor | Senior Research Officer

Molecular Cancer Epidemiology

+617 3362 0389

tracy.omara@qimrberghofer.edu.au

 

CAREER HISTORY

Dr Tracy O’Mara completed her Bachelor of Applied Science (First Class Honours) at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), researching hormone responses of genes involved in ovarian cancer. She was then employed in an NHMRC-funded research assistant position. In this role, she contributed to studies of prostate cancer and ovarian cancer. She contributed to the first genome-wide association study of prostate cancer published by the international consortium, PRACTICAL. In 2008, Dr O’Mara commenced her PhD at QUT, studying the role of common genetic variation on endometrial cancer risk and prognosis. She contributed to the first genome-wide association study of endometrial cancer in 2011. On completion of her PhD, Dr O’Mara was awarded an NHMRC Early Career Fellowship to continue her research of endometrial cancer genetics at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. Dr O’Mara now leads the Endometrial Cancer Association Consortium, with the goal to discover and characterise genetic variants associated with endometrial cancer risk. In 2020, in recognition of her gynaecological cancer research, Dr O’Mara was awarded the Cure Cancer Researcher of the Year.

 

CURRENT APPOINTMENTS

2020-present: NHMRC Investigator Fellow, QIMR Berghofer

2019-present: Honorary Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Queensland

2019-present: Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology

 

PREVIOUS APPOINTMENTS

2017-2019: Visiting Fellow, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology

2016-2019: NHMRC Early Career Fellow, QIMR Berghofer

2013-2019: Research Officer, Molecular Cancer Epidemiology, QIMR Berghofer

2012-2013: Research Assistant, Molecular Cancer Epidemiology, QIMR Berghofer

2006-2008: Research Assistant, Molecular Epidemiology, Queensland University of Technology

 

ORCID NUMBER

0000-0002-5436-3232

 

RESEARCHER ID   

M-7508-2016

 

CURRENT AREA OF RESEARCH

Dr O’Mara’s research focusses on the discovery and characterisation of endometrial cancer risk loci using genomic data. She has highly developed expertise in the analysis of genome-wide association studies and detailed fine-mapping analysis to identify genetic risk variants. Dr O’Mara is experienced in bioinformatics analysis and involved in the functional characterisation of endometrial cancer risk signals. She has a keen interest in the integration of large-scale genomics data to identify features important for cancer development, including the integration of epigenomic, transcriptomic and genotyping data to predict target genes of genetic risk variants.

Dr O’Mara leads the Endometrial Cancer Association Consortium (ECAC), which consists of more than 12,000 endometrial cancer cases contributed by 14 studies from Australia, UK, USA, Belgium, Germany, Norway and Sweden. She is an integral part of this consortium, leading genetic analysis, overseeing efforts within and between research groups, and co-ordinating biospecimen shipment and data transfer.

 

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

  • lead the Endometrial Cancer Association Consortium (ECAC), which have identified multiple endometrial cancer risk signals by analysis of genome-wide association level data, including the first ever genome-wide association study performed for this disease (Nature Genetics 2011; Nature Genetics 2016; Human Molecular Genetics 2016).
  • led the largest genome-wide association study meta-analysis for endometrial cancer published to date (Nature Communications 2018). From this study, we have now identified a quarter of endometrial cancer heritability attributed to common genetic variation.
  • led the first genome-wide association study meta-analysis of endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer, identifying genetic variation associated with the risk of developing both cancers (CEBP 2020, Accepted)
  • using Mendelian randomisation, assessed multiple proposed risk factors for endometrial cancer, finding causal relationships between endometrial cancer risk and increased LDL cholesterol & HDL cholesterol (Int J Cancer 2020), increased body mass index (CEBP 2016; Nature Communications 2018), increased testosterone and decreased sex hormone binding globulin (Nature Medicine 2020), early age of menarche (Nature Genetics 2017; Nature Communications 2018), increased predicted telomere length (JAMA Oncology 2017), and increased estradiol levels (Endocrine-Related Cancer 2016)
  • using functional genomic experiments, we have identified candidate target genes of endometrial cancer genetic risk variation (Cancers 2019)
  • identification of gene expression profiles associated with aggressive endometrial cancer (Scientific Reports 2016).
  • identification of an endometrial and colorectal cancer pleiotropic risk signal at the SH2B3 gene by combined genome-wide association study meta-analysis for these two diseases (Scientific Reports 2015)
  • identification of a prostate cancer risk variant which alters miRNA binding and is predicted to affect baseline prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels (Cancer Discovery, 2015).

 

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

2020

  • NHMRC Investigator Grant Reviewer

2019                   

  • NHMRC Ideas Grant Review Panel Member

2018-present   

  • Scientific Member, Endometrial Tumour Type Working Group, Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Cancer Group (competitive application process)
  • Endometrial cancer representative, International Cross-Cancer GWAS Working Group

2017-present   

  • Co-treasurer & Secretary, QIMR Berghofer Staff Association Executive
  • Lead, international Endometrial Cancer Association Consortium
  • Member, Australian Society for Medical Research

2016-present   

  • Social Convenor, QIMR Berghofer Postdoctoral Committee

2015-present   

  • Member Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group

2014-present   

  • Member, American Society of Human Genetics

2013-present   

  • Associate Member, American Association of Cancer Research

 

AWARDS RECOGNITION

2020     

  • CASS Foundation Travel Award to attend the European Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting, Berlin Germany – $2500 (cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic)
  • Cure Cancer Researcher of the Year – $AUD 5000 travel award
  • NHMRC Investigator Grant – Emerging Leadership 2 (2020-2024)

2019     

  • QIMR Berghofer Postdoctoral Research Award – travel costs for an international conference
  • NHMRC Project Grant, CIA (2019-2020)

2018     

  • Semi-finalist, American Society of Human Genetics/Charles J Epstein Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Research (60 semi-finalists selected from 670 applicants) – $USD750
  • Cancer Australia/Cure Cancer Australia Project Grant, CIA (2018-2020)

2017     

  • QIMR Berghofer Recognition for Researchers Award
  • Finalist, Australian Society for Medical Research QLD Health and Medical Awards – Postdoctoral Category
  • Australia New Zealand Gynaecology Oncology Group Travel Fellowship – $AUD 1000

2016     

  • Semi-finalist, American Society of Human Genetics/Charles J Epstein Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Research (60 semi-finalists selected from 490 applicants) – $USD 750
  • CASS Foundation Travel Award to attend the American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting, Vancouver, Canada – $AUD 3000

2015     

  • NHMRC Early Career Research Fellowship (2016-2019)

2014     

  • Cancer Council QLD Travel Grant to attend the American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting, San Diego, USA – $AUD 2500

2013     

  • Awarded competitive place in the Integrative Molecular Epidemiology, AACR Workshop, Boston, USA (50 researchers selected from 160 applicants) – all meals and accommodation provided
  • QIMR Travel Grant to attend the Integrative Molecular Epidemiology, AACR Workshop, Boston, USA – $AUD 2000

2011     

  • Finalist, Queensland Health and Medical Research Awards – Postgraduate Division
  • Human Genetics Society of Australasia travel award to attend the International Congress of Human Genetics/American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting, Montreal, Canada – $AUD 3000

2010     

  • QUT Grant-In-Aid Travel Grant to attend the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting, Washington DC, USA – $AUD 1500
  • QUT School of Life Sciences Travel Grant to attend the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting, Washington DC, USA – $AUD 800

2009     

  • Human Genetics Society of Australasia QLD branch travel award to attend the Human Genetics of Australasia Annual Scientific Meeting, Fremantle, Western Australia (declined) – $AUD 385

2008     

  • Recipient of Queensland Government Smart State PhD top-up Award
  • Recipient of the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation PhD top-up Award
  • Recipient of QUT Vice-Chancellor PhD top-up Award, awarded to top 10 ranked APA awardees (declined)
  • Recipient of Australian Postgraduate Award (APA)

 

EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

  • PhD (Cancer Genetics), QUT
  • BAppSc (Life Sciences) First Class Honours, QUT
  • BAppSc (Biochemistry & Biotechnology) with Distinction, QUT