Despite considerable efforts, the mechanisms linking genomic alterations to the transcriptional identity of cancer cells remain elusive. Integrative genomic analysis, using a network-based approach, identified 407 master regulator (MR) proteins responsible for canalizing the genetics of individual samples from 20 cohorts in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) into 112 transcriptionally distinct tumor subtypes. MR proteins could be further organized into 24 pan-cancer, master regulator block modules (MRBs), each regulating key cancer hallmarks and predictive of patient outcome in multiple cohorts. Of all somatic alterations detected in each individual sample, >50% were predicted to induce aberrant MR activity, yielding insight into mechanisms linking tumor genetics and transcriptional identity and establishing non-oncogene dependencies. Genetic and pharmacological validation assays confirmed the predicted effect of upstream mutations and MR activity on downstream cellular identity and phenotype. Thus, co-analysis of mutational and gene expression profiles identified elusive subtypes and provided testable hypothesis for mechanisms mediating the effect of genetic alterations.