Maxine was born and raised in Sacramento, CA and transferred to UC Merced in 2007 after attending a community college for 2 years. She received her B.S. in Developmental Biology with a minor in Psychology in 2010. During the last year of her undergrad, Maxine was invited to do research in the lab of Dr. Michael Cleary, studying nervous system development. Because of this research experience, Maxine decided to stay at UC Merced to pursue her Master’s in Quantitative and Systems Biology, graduating in 2013. Immediately after graduating, she started her Ph.D. at UC Davis, where her research centered on triple negative breast cancer – a type of breast cancer that has a high incidence in Black and African women.

After completing her PhD in Biochemistry, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology with an emphasis in Translational Research in 2019, Maxine became a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University in the department of Neurosurgery. Dr. Umeh Garcia’s research focuses on breast cancers that metastasize (or travel) to the brain. Maxine was recently promoted to an instructor position in her department after receiving a major career development award from the National Cancer Institute (K99/R00), which will fund the remainder of her postdoctoral research and provide 3 years of funding for Maxine to establish her own independent research lab. Using her background in bench research, informatics, and translational research, Dr. Umeh Garcia hopes to bring together biologists, data scientists, and clinicians to make important advances in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, as a women and underrepresented minority, Dr. Umeh Garcia is keenly interested in mentoring women and underrepresented students, and in developing novel strategic approaches to increasing diversity in biomedical sciences and academic research.

Academic Appointments

Professional Education

  • PhD, University of California, Davis, Biochemistry, Molecular, Cell, & Developmental Biology (Designated Emphasis in Translational Research) (2019)
  • MS, University of California, Merced, Quantitative and Systems Biology (2013)
  • BS, University of California, Merced, Developmental Biology, Psychology (minor) (2010)

All Publications

  • SPATIALLY-RESOLVED TRANSCRIPTOME ANALYSIS OF BRAIN METASTATIC BREAST CANCER REVEAL KEY MEDIATORS OF BRAIN-TROPIC METASTATIC POTENTIAL Umeh-Garcia, M., Godfrey, B., Perez, P., Varma, S., Ahmadian, S., Toland, A., Granucci, M., Averbukh, I., Tian, L., West, R., Angelo, M., Plevritis, S., Gephart, M. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC. 2023
  • Aberrant promoter methylation contributes to LRIG1 silencing in basal/triple-negative breast cancer. British journal of cancer Umeh-Garcia, M., O'Geen, H., Simion, C., Gephart, M. H., Segal, D. J., Sweeney, C. A. 2022


    BACKGROUND: LRIG1, the founding member of the LRIG (leucine-rich repeat and immunoglobulin-like domain) family of transmembrane proteins, is a negative regulator of receptor tyrosine kinases and a tumour suppressor. Decreased LRIG1 expression is consistently observed in cancer, across diverse tumour types, and is linked to poor patient prognosis. However, mechanisms by which LRIG1 is repressed are not fully understood. Silencing of LRIG1 through promoter CpG island methylation has been reported in colorectal and cervical cancer but studies in breast cancer remain limited.METHODS: In silico analysis of human breast cancer patient data were used to demonstrate a correlation between DNA methylation and LRIG1 silencing in basal/triple-negative breast cancer, and its impact on patient survival. LRIG1 gene expression, protein abundance, and methylation enrichment were examined by quantitative reverse-transcription PCR, immunoblotting, and methylation immunoprecipitation, respectively, in breast cancer cell lines in vitro. We examined the impact of global demethylation on LRIG1 expression and methylation enrichment using 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine. We also examined the effects of targeted demethylation of the LRIG1 CpG island, and transcriptional activation of LRIG1 expression, using the RNA guided deadCas9 transactivation system.RESULTS: Across breast cancer subtypes, LRIG1 expression is lowest in the basal/triple-negative subtype so we investigated whether differential methylation may contribute to this. Indeed, we find that LRIG1 CpG island methylation is most prominent in basal/triple-negative cell lines and patient samples. Use of the global demethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine decreases methylation leading to increased LRIG1 transcript expression in basal/triple-negative cell lines, while having no effect on LRIG1 expression in luminal/ER-positive cell lines. Using a CRISPR/deadCas9 (dCas9)-based targeting approach, we demonstrate that TET1-mediated demethylation (Tet1-dCas9) along with VP64-mediated transcriptional activation (VP64-dCas9) at the CpG island, increased endogenous LRIG1 expression in basal/triple-negative breast cancer cells, without transcriptional upregulation at predicted off-target sites. Activation of LRIG1 by the dCas9 transactivation system significantly increased LRIG1 protein abundance, reduced site-specific methylation, and reduced cancer cell viability. Our findings suggest that CRISPR-mediated targeted activation may be a feasible way to restore LRIG1 expression in cancer.CONCLUSIONS: Our study contributes novel insight into mechanisms which repress LRIG1 in triple-negative breast cancer and demonstrates for the first time that targeted de-repression of LRIG1 in cancer cells is possible. Understanding the epigenetic mechanisms associated with repression of tumour suppressor genes holds potential for the advancement of therapeutic approaches.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41416-022-01812-8

    View details for PubMedID 35440669

  • A Novel Brain-Permeant Chemotherapeutic Agent for the Treatment of Brain Metastasis in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Molecular cancer therapeutics Deng, J., Chernikova, S. B., Wang, Y., Rodriguez, M. L., Andersen, S. J., Umeh-Garcia, M. C., Godfrey, B. O., Ahmadian, S. S., Fischer, W., Koller, K. J., Jandeleit, B., Ringold, G. M., Gephart, M. H. 2021


    Development of metastases to central nervous system (CNS) is an increasing clinical issue following the diagnosis of advanced breast cancer. The propensity to metastasize to CNS varies by breast cancer subtype. Of the four breast cancer subtypes, triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) have the highest rates of both parenchymal brain metastasis and leptomeningeal metastasis (LM). LM is rapidly fatal due to poor detection and limited therapeutic options. Therapy of TNBC brain metastasis and LM is challenged by multifocal brain metastasis and diffuse spread of LM, and must balance brain penetration, tumor cytotoxicity, and the avoidance of neurotoxicity. Thus, there is an urgent need for novel therapeutic options in TNBCs CNS metastasis. QBS10072S is a novel chemotherapeutic that leverages TNBC-specific defects in DNA repair and LAT1 (L-amino acid transporter type 1)-dependent transport into the brain. In our study, activity of QBS10072S was investigated in vitro with various cell lines including the human TNBC cell line MDA-MB-231 and its brain-tropic derivative MDA-MB-231-BR3. QBS10072S was preferentially toxic to TNBC cells. The efficacy of QBS10072S against brain metastasis and LM was tested using a model of brain metastasis based on the internal carotid injection of luciferase-expressing tumor cells into NuNu mice. The compound was well tolerated, delayed tumor growth and reduced leptomeningeal dissemination, resulting in significant extension of survival. Given that current treatments for LM are palliative with only few studies reporting a survival benefit, QBS10072S is planned to be investigated in clinical trials as a therapeutic for TNBC LM. SIGNIFICANCE: TNBC brain metastasis often involves dissemination into leptomeninges. Treatment options for TNBC leptomeningeal metastasis are limited and are mostly palliative. Our study demonstrates significant efficacy of the brain-penetrating agent QBS10072S against TNBC brain metastasis and leptomeningeal spread.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-21-0140

    View details for PubMedID 34635566

  • Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis: Molecular Landscape, Current Management, and Emerging Therapies. Neurosurgery clinics of North America Bhambhvani, H. P., Rodrigues, A. J., Umeh-Garcia, M. C., Hayden Gephart, M. 2020; 31 (4): 613–25


    Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis is a devastating consequence of late-stage cancer, and despite multimodal treatment, remains rapidly fatal. Definitive diagnosis requires identification of malignant cells in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), or frank disease on MRI. Therapy is generally palliative and consists primarily of radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy, which is administered intrathecally or systemically. Immunotherapies and novel experimental therapies have emerged as promising options for decreasing patient morbidity and mortality. In this review, the authors discuss a refined view of the molecular pathophysiology of leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, current approaches to disease management, and emerging therapies.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/

    View details for PubMedID 32921356

  • A Novel Bioengineered miR-127 Prodrug Suppresses the Growth and Metastatic Potential of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cells. Cancer research Umeh-Garcia, M., Simion, C., Ho, P. Y., Batra, N., Berg, A. L., Carraway, K. L., Yu, A., Sweeney, C. 2020; 80 (3): 418-429


    miR-127 is downregulated in breast cancer, where it has been shown to suppress the proliferation, migration, and invasion of breast cancer cells. In triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), miR-127 downregulation correlates with decreased disease-free and overall patient survival. Tumor suppressor miRNAs may hold therapeutic promise but progress has been limited by several factors, including the lability and high cost of miRNA mimics. Here, we take a novel approach to produce a miR-127 prodrug (miR-127PD), which we demonstrate is processed to mature, functional miR-127-3p in TNBC tumor cells. miR-127PD decreased the viability and motility of TNBC cells, sensitized TNBC cells to chemotherapy, and restricted the TNBC stem cell population. Furthermore, systemic delivery of miR-127PD suppressed tumor growth of MDA-MB-231 and MDA-MB-468 TNBC cells and spontaneous metastasis of MDA-MB-231 cells. In addition, CERK, NANOS1, FOXO6, SOX11, SOX12, FASN, and SUSD2 were identified as novel, functionally important targets of miR-127. In conclusion, our study demonstrates that miR-127 functions as a tumor and metastasis suppressor in TNBC and that delivery of miR-127 may hold promise as a novel therapy. SIGNIFICANCE: Exogenous administration of miR-127, which is functionally activated in target cells, inhibits growth and spontaneous metastasis of triple-negative breast cancer.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-0656

    View details for PubMedID 31694904

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7002233

  • A Syngeneic ErbB2 Mammary Cancer Model for Preclinical Immunotherapy Trials. Journal of mammary gland biology and neoplasia Pénzváltó, Z., Chen, J. Q., Tepper, C. G., Davis, R. R., Silvestrini, M. T., Umeh-Garcia, M., Sweeney, C., Borowsky, A. D. 2019; 24 (2): 149-162


    In order to develop a practical model of breast cancer, with in vitro and syngeneic, immune-intact, in vivo growth capacity, we established a primary cell line derived from a mammary carcinoma in the transgenic FVB/N-Tg(MMTV-ErbB2*)NDL2-5Mul mouse, referred to as "NDLUCD". The cell line is adapted to standard cell culture and can be transplanted into syngeneic FVB/N mice. The line maintains a stable phenotype over multiple in vitro passages and rounds of in vivo transplantation. NDLUCD tumors in FVB/N mice exhibit high expression of ErbB2 and ErbB3 and signaling molecules downstream of ErbB2. The syngeneic transplant tumors elicit an immune reaction in the adjacent stroma, detected and characterized using histology, immunophenotyping, and gene expression. NDLUCD cells also express PD-L1 in vivo and in vitro, and in vivo transplants are reactive to anti-immune checkpoint therapy with responses conducive to immunotherapy studies. This new NDLUCD cell line model is a practical alternative to the more commonly used 4T1 cells, and our previously described FVB/N-Tg(MMTV-PyVT)634Mul derived Met-1fvb2 and FVB/NTg(MMTV-PyVTY315F/Y322F) derived DB-7fvb2 cell lines. The NDLUCD cells have, so far, remained genetically and phenotypically stable over many generations, with consistent and reproducible results in immune intact preclinical cohorts.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s10911-019-09425-3

    View details for PubMedID 30810966

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6612594

  • Cancer prevention through miRNAs: miR-206 prevents the initiation and progression of hepatocellular carcinoma by attenuating c-MET signaling and cell-cycle progression via cyclin D1 and CDK6. Non-coding RNA investigation Umeh-Garcia, M., Sweeney, C. 2018; 2

    View details for DOI 10.21037/ncri.2018.06.05

    View details for PubMedID 31930188

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6953971

  • Regulation of the T-box transcription factor Tbx3 by the tumour suppressor microRNA-206 in breast cancer. British journal of cancer Amir, S., Simion, C., Umeh-Garcia, M., Krig, S., Moss, T., Carraway, K. L., Sweeney, C. 2016; 114 (10): 1125-34


    The Tbx3 transcription factor is over-expressed in breast cancer, where it has been implicated in proliferation, migration and regulation of the cancer stem cell population. The mechanisms that regulate Tbx3 expression in cancer have not been fully explored. In this study, we demonstrate that Tbx3 is repressed by the tumour suppressor miR-206 in breast cancer cells.Bioinformatics prediction programmes and luciferase reporter assays were used to demonstrate that miR-206 negatively regulates Tbx3. We examined the impact of miR-206 on Tbx3 expression in breast cancer cells using miR-206 mimic and inhibitor. Gene/protein expression was examined by quantitative reverse-transcription-PCR and immunoblotting. The effects of miR-206 and Tbx3 on apoptosis, proliferation, invasion and cancer stem cell population was investigated by cell-death detection, colony formation, 3D-Matrigel and tumorsphere assays.In this study, we examined the regulation of Tbx3 by miR-206. We demonstrate that Tbx3 is directly repressed by miR-206, and that this repression of Tbx3 is necessary for miR-206 to inhibit breast tumour cell proliferation and invasion, and decrease the cancer stem cell population. Moreover, Tbx3 and miR-206 expression are inversely correlated in human breast cancer. Kaplan-Meier analysis indicates that patients exhibiting a combination of high Tbx3 and low miR-206 expression have a lower probability of survival when compared with patients with low Tbx3 and high miR-206 expression. These studies uncover a novel mechanism of Tbx3 regulation and identify a new target of the tumour suppressor miR-206.The present study identified Tbx3 as a novel target of tumour suppressor miR-206 and characterised the miR-206/Tbx3 signalling pathway, which is involved in proliferation, invasion and maintenance of the cancer stem cell population in breast cancer cells. Our results suggest that restoration of miR-206 in Tbx3-positive breast cancer could be exploited for therapeutic benefit.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/bjc.2016.73

    View details for PubMedID 27100732

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4865973

  • Dynamic regulation of mRNA decay during neural development NEURAL DEVELOPMENT Burow, D. A., Umeh-Garcia, M. C., True, M. B., Bakhaj, C. D., Ardell, D. H., Cleary, M. D. 2015; 10


    Gene expression patterns are determined by rates of mRNA transcription and decay. While transcription is known to regulate many developmental processes, the role of mRNA decay is less extensively defined. A critical step toward defining the role of mRNA decay in neural development is to measure genome-wide mRNA decay rates in neural tissue. Such information should reveal the degree to which mRNA decay contributes to differential gene expression and provide a foundation for identifying regulatory mechanisms that affect neural mRNA decay.We developed a technique that allows genome-wide mRNA decay measurements in intact Drosophila embryos, across all tissues and specifically in the nervous system. Our approach revealed neural-specific decay kinetics, including stabilization of transcripts encoding regulators of axonogenesis and destabilization of transcripts encoding ribosomal proteins and histones. We also identified correlations between mRNA stability and physiologic properties of mRNAs; mRNAs that are predicted to be translated within axon growth cones or dendrites have long half-lives while mRNAs encoding transcription factors that regulate neurogenesis have short half-lives. A search for candidate cis-regulatory elements identified enrichment of the Pumilio recognition element (PRE) in mRNAs encoding regulators of neurogenesis. We found that decreased expression of the RNA-binding protein Pumilio stabilized predicted neural mRNA targets and that a PRE is necessary to trigger reporter-transcript decay in the nervous system.We found that differential mRNA decay contributes to the relative abundance of transcripts involved in cell-fate decisions, axonogenesis, and other critical events during Drosophila neural development. Neural-specific decay kinetics and the functional specificity of mRNA decay suggest the existence of a dynamic neurodevelopmental mRNA decay network. We found that Pumilio is one component of this network, revealing a novel function for this RNA-binding protein.

    View details for DOI 10.1186/s13064-015-0038-6

    View details for Web of Science ID 000353540000001

    View details for PubMedID 25896902

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4413985