Chaur-Dong Hsu, MD, MPH, FACOG
Pilar Blancafort, PhD
Associate Professor of Cancer Epigenetics
Cancer Council of Western Australia Research Fellow
Group Leader, the Harry Perkins Institute for Medical Research
  • The University of Western Australia
    Crawley, Western Australia, Australia
    Phone: +61 8 61861510990



Post-doctoral fellow

Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Canada, USA


PhD in Biochemistry

Universite de Montreal (Canada)


BSc in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Universitat de Barcelona, Spain


Dr. Pilar Blancafort is currently an associate professor of Cancer Epigenetics at The University of Western Australia in Crawley, Australia. Her academic background involved undergraduate and graduate degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. In 2005, she established her own laboratory at the University of North Carolina, as Assistant Professor and later as tenured Associate Professor in 2011. In 2012, Professor Blancafort moved her laboratory at the University of Western Australia. Her laboratory focuses on the development of novel approaches to target cancers that are currently refractory to treatment and associated with poor outcomes, such as “triple negative breast cancers and ovarian cancers.”

She joined the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in 2014. She hold’s a Cancer Council of Western Australia (CCWA) and Australian Research Council (ARC)  Future Fellowship.


Research Interest

Genome engineering, Gene targeting, Cancer Epigenetics, Triple negative breast cancers and Ovarian cancers.

Scientific Activities:

Teaching Experience:


Group Leader, Harry Perkins Medical Research institute, Nedlands, Australia


Associate Professor, Cancer Biology, School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, The University of Western Australia, Australia


Associate Professor of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA


Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA


Senior Research Associate in Dr. Carlos Barbas III laboratory. Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, USA


Research Associate in Dr. Carlos Barbas III laboratory. Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, USA

Professional Activities:


Present Group Leader, Harry Perkins Medical Research Institute (Western Australia Institute for Medical Research


Associate Editor, Frontiers in Oncology Research Topic


Present Associate Professor, Cancer Biology & Cancer Epigenetics, The University of Western  Australia (UWA)


Member, American Association for Cancer Research, AACR


Member, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center


Ph.D. Program, Biochemistry, Université de Montréal with Robert Cedergren


M.Sc. Program, Biochemistry, Université de Montréal (Canada)


B.Sc., Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Universitat de Barcelona (Spain)


Personal Project and last year of B.Sc UniversiteLibre de Bruxelles (Belgium) with Dr. Alain Ghysen


Honors & Awards


Cancer Council Western Australia Fellowship


Australian Research Council Future Fellowship


National Breast Cancer Foundation Novel Concept award


LOUISE & HERBERT SHIVEK Lecture, Dana Farber & Harvard Medical School


Winner Research Competition at UWA “Novel anti-cancer peptides for the treatment of basal-like breast cancers”


Department of Defense Breast Cancer Idea Award


UCRF Cancer Research Pilot Core Award


UCRF Innovation Research Award


Golfers Against Cancer Research Award


Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (C-CCNE) Pilot Grant Award


Department of Defense Breast Cancer Idea Award


University Research Council Award, UNC-CH


American Lung Discovery Award


GI SPORE Research Award


V-Foundation Award for Cancer Research (breast cancer fellowship in honor of Julie


 Golfers against Cancer breast breast cancer award


 Research supported by Novartis Pharma fellowship (Oncology)




Winner, Simon-Pierre Noel Price for the best graduate student presentation in the department of Biochemistry, University of Montreal


FES (Faculté des Études Supérieures) fellowship to support foreign students in the University of Montreal


Fellowship from Foundation Jean Branchet (ULB, Bruxelles) to support foreign students at the ULB (Universite libre de Bruxelles), Belgium


EU ERASMUS fellowship to finish last year of B.Sc. in ULB (Universite libre de Bruxelles), Belgium



  1. Sensitizing Basal-Like Breast Cancer to chemotherapy using Nanoparticles conjugated with interference Peptide. Anabel Sorolla, Diwei Ho, Edina Wang, Cameron W. Evans, Callum F. G. Ormonde, Rabab Rashwan, Ruhani Singh, K. Swaminathan Iyer and Pilar Blancafort. Nanoscale. 2016 Apr 28;8(17):9343-53. doi: 10.1039/c5nr08331a.
  2. Systematic and unbiased comparison of Zinc Fingers, TALEs and CRISPR/dCas9 systems for activation of endogenous gene expression. Benjamin Garcia-Bloj, Colette Moses, Mahira Arooj, Janice Lam, Agustin Sgro, Rabab Rashwan, Alejandro Corvalan and Pilar Blancafort. In review. (Oncotarget).
  3. Re-expression of selected epigenetically silenced candidate tumor suppressor genes in cervical cancer by TET2-directed demethylation. Mol. Christian Huisman, Monique Wijst, Matthijs Schokker, Pilar Blancafort, Martijn Terpstra, Klaas Kok, Ate van der Zee, Ed Schuuring, Gijsbertha Wisman, and Marianne Rots. Mol. Therapy 2015.
  4. Benjamin Garcia-Bloj, Colette Moses, Pilar Blancafort. The CRISPR road: from bench to bedside on an RNA-guided path. Annals of Translational Medicine, 3 (13) 2015.
  5. Twigger AJ, Hepworth AR, Tat Lai C, Chetwynd E, Stuebe AM, Blancafort P, Hartmann PE, Geddes DT, Kakulas F. Gene expression in breastmilk cells is associated with maternal and infant characteristics. Sci Rep. 2015 Aug 10;5:12933. doi: 10.1038/srep12933.
  6. Falahi F, Sgro A, Blancafort P. Epigenome engineering in cancer: fairytale or a realistic path to the clinic? Front Oncol. 2015 Feb 6;5:22. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2015.00022.
  7. Stolzenburg S, Beltran AS, Swift-Scanlan T, Rivenbark AG, Rashwan R, Blancafort P. Stable oncogenic silencing in vivo by programmable and targeted de novo DNA methylation in breast cancer. Oncogene. 2015 Feb 16. doi: 10.1038/onc.2014.470.
  8. Hodgetts SI, Stagg K, Sturm M, Edel M, Blancafort P. Long live the stem cell: the use of stem cells isolated from post mortem tissues for translational strategies. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2014 Nov;56:74-81. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2014.09.028. Epub 2014 Oct 7.
  9. Grimmer MR, Stolzenburg S, Ford E, Lister R, Blancafort P, Farnham PJ. Analysis of an artificial zinc finger epigenetic modulator: widespread binding but limited regulation Nucleic Acids Res. 2014;42(16):10856-68. doi: 10.1093/nar/gku708. Epub 2014 Aug 13.
  10. Beltran A.S., Graves, L.M., Blancafort, P. Novel role of Engrailed 1 as pro-survival factor in basal-like breast cancer and engineering of interference peptides to block its oncogenic function. Oncogene. 2014 Oct 21. doi: 10.1038/onc.2013.422.
  11. Prabhakaran P, Hassiotou F, Blancafort P, Filgueira L. Cisplatin induces differentiation of breast cancer cells. Front Oncol. (2013) Jun 3;3:134. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2013.00134.
  12. Hassioutou, F, Hepworth, A, Beltran AS, Mathews, M, Stuebe A, Hartmann P, Filgueira L and Blancafort P. Expression of the pluripotency transcription factor OCT4 in the normal and aberrant mammary gland. Front Oncol. (2013) Apr 11;3:79. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2013.
  13. Juárez-Moreno K, Erices R, Beltran AS, Stolzenburg S, Cuello-Fredes M, Owen, GI, Qian H, Blancafort P. Breaking through an epigenetic wall: Re-activation of OCT4 by KRAB-containing designer zinc finger transcription factors. Epigenetics (2013). 8 (2) Jan 11 2013.
  14. Van der Gun BTF, Huisman C., Stolzenburg S., Kazemier HG, Ruiters, MHJ., Blancafort, P. Rots MG. Bidirectional modulation of endogenous EpCAM expression to unravel its function in ovarian cancer. Br J Cancer. (2013) Feb 12. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2013.45.
  15. Wang Y, Su H-h, Yang Y, Zhang L, Blancafort P, Huang L. Systemic Delivery of Modified mRNA Encoding Herpes Simplex Virus 1 Thymidine Kinase for Targeted Cancer Gene Therapy. Molecular Therapy (2013) Feb;21(2):358-67. doi: 10.1038/mt.2012.250. Epub 2012 Dec 11.
  16. Blancafort P, Jin J, Frye S. Writing and re-writing the epigenetic code of cancer cells: from engineered proteins to small molecules. Mol Pharmacol. (2013) Mar;83(3):563-76. doi: 10.1124/mol.112.080697. Epub 2012 Nov 13. Review.
  17. Hassiotou F, Beltran A, Chetwynd E, Stuebe AM, Twigger AJ, Metzger P, Trengove N, Tat Lai C, Filgueira L, Blancafort P, Hartmann PE. Breastmilk is a Novel Source of Stem Cells with Multi-Lineage Differentiation Potential. Stem Cells. (2012) Aug 3. doi: 10.1002/stem.1188. [Epub ahead of print]
  18. Stolzenburg S, Rots MG, Beltran AS, Rivenbark AS, Yuan X, Strahl BS, Blancafort P (2012) Targeted silencing of the oncogenic transcription factor SOX2 in breast cancer. Nucleic Acids Research. (2012); 40:6725-40.
  19. Lara H, Wang Y, Beltran AS, Juarez-Moreno K, Yuan X, Kato S, Leisewitz AV, Cuello-Fredes M, Licea AF, Connolly DC, Huang L, Blancafort P. Targeting serous epithelial ovarian cancer with designer zinc finger transcription factors. J Biol Chem. (2012); 287:29873-86.
  20. Rivenbark AG, Beltran AS, Yuan X, Rots MG, Strahl BD, Blancafort P. Epigenetic Reprogramming of Cancer Cells via Targeted DNA Methylation. Epigenetics (2012); 7:350-60.
  21. Huang X, Narayanaswamy R, Fenn K, Szpakowski S, Sasaki C, Costa J, Blancafort P, Lizardi PM. Sequence-Specific Biosensors Report Drug-Induced Changes in Epigenetic Silencing in Living Cells. DNA Cell Biol. (2012) Feb 7.
  22. Beltran, A and Blancafort, P. Reactivation of Maspin in Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma cells (NSCLC) by Artificial Transcription Factors (ATFs). Epigenetics. 2011 Feb 20;6(2).
  23. Beltran, A. S., Russo, A, Lara, H, Fan, C, Lizardi, P. M, Blancafort, P. Suppression of breast tumor growth and metastasis by an engineered transcription factor. PLoS One. 2011. 6: 9 e24595
  24. Beltran AS, Rivenbark AG, Richardson BT, Yuan X, Quian H, Hunt JP, Zimmerman E, Graves LM, Blancafort P. Generation of tumor-initiating cells by exogenous delivery of OCT4 transcription factor. Breast Cancer Res. 2011 Sep 27;13(5):R94
  25. Beltran, A., Blancafort, P. Remodeling genomes with Artificial Transcription Factors and chromatin remodeling drugs. Zinc Finger Protocols. Humana Press. Methods Mol Biol. 2010;649: 163-82.
  26. Beltran, A., Sun, X., Lizardi,PM, Blancafort, P. Reprogramming epigenetic silencing: Artificial Transcription Factors synergize with chromatin remodeling drugs to re-activate the tumor suppressor mammary serine protease inhibitor maspin. Mol Cancer Ther. 2008;7:1080-90.
  27. Blancafort P, Beltran AS. Rational Design, Selection and Specificity of Artificial Transcription Factors (ATFs): The Influence of Chromatin in Target Gene Regulation. Comb Chem High Throughput Screen. (2008);11:146-58.
  28. Blancafort, P., Tschan, M.P., Edrmann, D., Barbas III, C.F. Modulation of drug resistance by artificial transcription factors. Mol Cancer Ther. (2008); 7:688-97.
  29. Beltran, A., Parikh, S., Liu, Y., Cuevas, BD, Johnson GL, Fustcher, BW and Blancafort, P. Reactivation of a dormant tumor suppressor by designed transcription factors. Oncogene. (2007);26:2791-8.
  30. Beltran, A., Liu, Y., Parikh, S., Brenda, T., and Blancafort, P. Interrogating genomes with combinatorial transcription factor libraries: asking zinc finger questions. Assay Drug Dev Technol. (2006); 4:317-331
  31. Dreier, B., Fuller, R.P, Segal, D.J., Lund, C., Blancafort, P., Huber, A., Koksch, B., and Barbas, C.F.III. Development of zinc finger domains for recognition of the 5’-CNN-3’ family DNA sequences and their use in the construction of artificial transcription factors. J. Biol. Chem. (2005); 280: 35588-97.
  32. Blancafort, P., Chen, E., Gonzalez, B., Bergquist, S., Zijlstra, A., Guthy, D., Brachat, A., Brakenhoff, R., Quigley, J., Edrmann, D., and Barbas C.F.III. Genetic reprogramming of tumor cells by zinc finger transcription factors. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (2005); 102:11716-21.
  33. Magnenat, L., Blancafort, P. and Barbas III, C.F. In vivo library selection and designed affinity manuration of polydactyl zinc finger transcription factors for ICAM–1 gene regulation. J. Mol. Biol.(2004); 341:635-49.
  34. Blancafort, P, Segal, D.J., and Barbas III, C.F. Designing transcription factor architectures for drug design. Mol Pharmacol. (2004); 66:1361-71.
  35. Lund, C.V, Blancafort, P., Popkov, M. and Barbas III, C.F. Promoter-targeted Phage Display Selections with Preassembled Synthetic Zinc Finger Libraries for Endogenous Gene Regulation. J.Mol. Biol. (2004); 340:599-613.
  36. Blancafort,P., Magnenat, L. and Barbas III, C.F. Scanning the human genome with combinatorial transcription factor libraries. Nat Biotechnol. (2003);21:269-74.
  37. Segal, D.J., Beerli R.R, Blancafort, P., Dreider, B., Effertz, K., Huber, A., Koksch, B., Magnenat, L., Valente, D., and Barbas III., C.F. (2003). Evaluation of a modular strategy for the construction of novel polydactyl zinc finger DNA-binding proteins. Biochemistry. 2003; 42:2137-48.
  38. Blancafort, P., Klinck, R., Steinberg, S., Scott, J.K. and Cedergren, R. The recognition of a non-canonical base pair by a zinc finger protein. Chem Biol. (1999); 6:585-97.
  39. Blancafort, P., Ferbeyre, G., Sariol, C., and Cedergren, R. Pol I-driven integrative expression vectors for yeast. Journal of Biotechnology (1997);56:41-7
  40. Ferbeyre, G., Bratty, J., Blancafort, P., and Cedergren, R. (1995). Yeast as a model for hammerhead ribozyme action. Yeast, 11:15-48A.


Journal of Breast Cancer Research and Advancements