Brain Tumor Fact Sheet

CIRM funds many projects seeking to better understand brain tumors and to translate those discoveries into new therapies.


A type of brain tumor called a high-grade glioma, or malignant brain tumor, is among the hardest tumors to treat. About 13,000 people die from brain tumors each year.

Gliomas are particularly difficult to treat because they are made up of tumor cells that spread throughout the brain, not remaining in a single area where they could be removed through surgery or targeted by radiation. Chemotherapy has not been effective at eradicating all of the glioma cells.

Stem cell approaches look promising for treating gliomas. Certain types of stem cell tend to migrate toward the tumor cells wherever they are in the brain. CIRM-funded researchers are trying to genetically engineer those stem cells to produce cancer-killing molecules. Transplanted into the brain, these cells would seek out the cancer cells and deliver their therapy directly where it is needed. This approach could significantly decrease toxic side-effects to normal tissues, preserving or improving the patient's quality of life.

Disease Teams

City of Hope

A team led by Karen Aboody at the City of Hope near Los Angeles is modifying human neural or brain stem cells to carry a powerful chemotherapy. The cells will migrate to the cancer cells in the brain and selectively destroy those cells while sparing normal tissues. This team has had good results testing the approach in animals and expects to begin clinical trials in humans within a few years.

CIRM Grants Targeting Brain Tumors

CIRM Brain Tumor Stem Cell Videos

News and Information


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