Solid Tumor Fact Sheet

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


Solid tumors include cancers of the brain, ovary, breast, colon and other tissues. Many people believe that one quality solid tumors share is a reliance on cancer stem cells. These cancer stem cells are thought to divide to produce the bulk of the cells that make up the tumor.

The hypothesis suggests that unlike most cells of a tumor, the cancer stem cells divide very slowly and are less likely to be destroyed by chemotherapies that kill the fast-growing tumor cells. The thought is that cancers might recur because the chemotherapy kills the bulk of the tumor, but leaves behind the cancer stem cells that can, over time, form a new tumor.

Stem cell scientists are studying cancer stem cells from solid tumors in the lab to find ways of destroying them. If these cancer stem cells share characteristics that allow them to be destroyed by the same drug, then a single new drug could significantly improve cancer treatment for a range of different cancer types.

Clinical Stage Programs

Stanford University

The Stanford University team has found a protein on the surface of leukemia stem cells that protects those cells from elimination by the patient’s own immune system. They call this protein a “don’t eat me” signal. They will create an antibody therapy that blocks that protein and makes the cancer stem cell available to be attacked and destroyed by the immune system.

Forty Seven Inc.

This company is using the same antibody therapy as in the Stanford trial, this time to fight colorectal or bowel cancer. They are combining their antibody therapy with another antibody-based cancer drug called Cetuximab in hopes of treating patients with colorectal cancer.

University of California, Los Angeles

A team led by scientists at UCLA has identified several potential drugs that kill cancer stem cells from the ovary, colon and brain in the lab dish. They will continue studying these drugs to find one that is most likely to be safe and effective at destroying cancer stem cells in people. Once they’ve identified the best candidate drug, the team plans to start clinical trials.

Participant in UCLA clinical trial talks about his cancer diagnosis and his clinical trial experience

CIRM Grants Targeting Solid Tumors

Researcher name Institution Grant Title Grant Type Approved funds
Mark Walters Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinic Alpha Stem Cell Clinics Network Expansion $7,999,999
John Cashman Human BioMolecular Research Institute Human Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cells: Developing a Novel Drug for Cancer Eradication Inception - Discovery Stage Research Projects $303,894
Julia Unternaehrer-Hamm Loma Linda University Targeting cancer stem cells with nanoparticle RNAi delivery to prevent recurrence and metastasis of ovarian cancer Inception - Discovery Stage Research Projects $172,870
Stewart Abbot Fate Therapeutics, Inc. IND enabling development of FT516: A Natural Killer Cell Immunotherapy for Cancer Derived from a Human Inducible Pluripotent Stem Cell Late Stage Preclinical Projects $4,000,000
Julien Sage Stanford University The retinoblastoma (RB) gene family in cellular reprogramming Basic Biology I $1,357,085
Dennis Slamon University of California, Los Angeles Therapeutic Opportunities To Target Tumor Initiating Cells in Solid Tumors Disease Team Research I $19,979,660
Irving Weissman Stanford University Development of Therapeutic Antibodies Targeting Human Acute Myeloid Leukemia Stem Cells Disease Team Research I $18,759,276
Elizabeth Lawlor Children's Hospital of Los Angeles hESC as tools to investigate the neural crest origin of Ewing's sarcoma SEED Grant $595,576
Siavash Kurdistani University of California, Los Angeles Epigenetics in cancer stem cell initiation and clinical outcome prediction New Faculty I $3,063,450
Irving Weissman Stanford University Clinical Investigation of a Humanized Anti-CD47 Antibody in Targeting Cancer Stem Cells in Hematologic Malignancies and Solid Tumors Disease Team Therapy Development III $6,505,568
Dennis Slamon University of California, Los Angeles A Phase I dose escalation and expansion clinical trial of the novel first-in-class Polo-like Kinase 4 (PLK4) inhibitor, CFI-400945 in patients with advanced solid tumors Disease Team Therapy Development III $6,924,317
David Cheresh University of California, San Diego CD61-driven stemness program in epithelial cancer Basic Biology V $1,161,000
John Zaia City of Hope, Beckman Research Institute The Innovation-Alpha Clinic for Cellular Therapies (I-ACT) – A Program for the Development and Delivery of Innovative Cell-based Treatments and Cures for Life-threatening Diseases. Alpha Stem Cell Clinics $8,000,000
Mark Chao Forty Seven Inc. A Phase 1b/2 Trial of the Anti-CD47 Antibody Hu5F9-G4 in Combination with Cetuximab in Patients with Solid Tumors and Advanced Colorectal Cancer Clinical Trial Stage Projects $10,234,048
Dan Kaufman University of California, San Diego Targeted off-the-shelf immunotherapy to treat refractory cancers Quest - Discovery Stage Research Projects $1,936,936

CIRM Cancer Stem Cell Videos

News about solid tumor research


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