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 are now testing a drug for the treatment of cancer that works by blocking PLK4, a protein that is important in regulating cell growth, division and death. This protein is important for the survival of the cancer stem cell as well as the rest of the cells in a tumor. It is hypothesized that blocking this protein from working in the tumor may stop or even shrink tumor growth.

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

CIRM Grants Targeting Solid Tumors

Researcher NameInstitutionGrant TitleGrant TypeAward Amount
Dr. Robert Blelloch MD, PHD.University of California, San FranciscoDevelopment of universal off-the-shelf iPSC derived dendritic cells for use as patient specific anti-tumor vaccineFoundation – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,391,999
Dr. Michael F ClarkeStanford UniversityDeveloping a breast cancer stem cell drugQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$2,053,727
Dr Jianhua YuCity of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteReprogramming Somatic Cells into iPSCs Engineered with an Anti-PSCA CAR to Develop Allogeneic Off-the-Shelf Cell Therapy to Treat Pancreatic CancerQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$2,263,500
Prof. Song LiUniversity of California, Los AngelesVax-CT to promote formation of cancer-specific T memory stem cell for personalized cancer immunotherapyQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$2,267,714
Dr. Richard Joseph PietrasUniversity of California, Los AngelesReversal of dysregulated myelopoiesis in breast cancers and cancer stem cells to boost antitumor immunotherapyQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$2,327,680
Frank PajonkUniversity of California, Los AngelesDevelopment of novel small molecules against cancer stem cells in solid cancersQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$2,340,000
Dr. Lili YangUniversity of California, Los AngelesCombating Ovarian Cancer Using Stem Cell-Engineered Off-The-Shelf CAR-iNKT CellsQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,404,000
Dr. Michael DemetriouUniversity of California, IrvineCAR T cells targeting abnormal N-glycans for the treatment of refractory/metastatic solid cancersQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,414,800
Dr. Michael KarinUniversity of California, San DiegoTargeting pancreatic cancer stem cells with DDR1 antibodies.Quest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,425,600
Dr. Edward FilardoCytonus Therapeutics, Inc.Development of a novel stem-cell based carrier for intravenous delivery of oncolytic virusesQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$899,342
Ansuman SatpathyStanford UniversityPreclinical development of an exhaustion-resistant CAR-T stem cell for cancer immunotherapyQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,420,200
Dan S KaufmanUniversity of California, San DiegoHuman iPSC-derived chimeric antigen receptor expressing macrophages for improved cancer treatment.Quest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,256,332
Munjal M AcharyaUniversity of California, IrvineStem cell-derived extracellular vesicles to reverse radiation-induced brain injuryQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,064,724
Dr. Tannishtha ReyaUniversity of California, San DiegoTargeting Critical Regulators of Cancer Stem CellsQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,148,264
Dan S KaufmanUniversity of California, San DiegoHuman iPSC-derived chimeric antigen receptor-expressing macrophages for cancer treatmentQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$222,200
Dr Saul J PricemanCity of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteChimeric Antigen Receptor-Engineered Stem/Memory T Cells for the Treatment of Recurrent Ovarian CancerQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,351,174
Dr. Philip Arden Beachy PhDStanford UniversityPluripotent stem cell-derived bladder epithelial progenitors for definitive cell replacement therapy of bladder cancerQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,265,436
Dr. Hideho OkadaUniversity of California, San FranciscoNon-viral reprogramming of the endogenous TCRα locus to direct stem memory T cells against shared neoantigens in malignant gliomasQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$900,000
Professor Yuan ChenUniversity of California, San DiegoA Novel Approach to Eradicate Cancer Stem CellsQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$279,977
Professor Yuan ChenCity of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteA Novel Approach to Eradicate Cancer Stem CellsQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,539,935
Dan S KaufmanUniversity of California, San DiegoTargeted off-the-shelf immunotherapy to treat refractory cancersQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,936,936
Professor Hiromitsu NakauchiStanford UniversityNovel Rejuvenated T Cell Immunotherapy for Lung CancerQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,968,456
Julia J. Unternaehrer-HammLoma Linda UniversityTargeting cancer stem cells with nanoparticle RNAi delivery to prevent recurrence and metastasis of ovarian cancerInception – Discovery Stage Research Projects$172,870
Dr. John R CashmanHuman BioMolecular Research InstituteHuman Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cells: Developing a Novel Drug for Cancer EradicationInception – Discovery Stage Research Projects$303,785
Dr. Owen N Witte M.D.University of California, Los AngelesIdentification of stem cell surface markers as potential therapeutic targets for advanced prostate cancerInception – Discovery Stage Research Projects$209,160
Dr. Nicole K PaulkSiren Biotechnology, Inc.Development of an AAV gene therapy immunotherapy for the treatment of glioblastomaTherapeutic Translational Research Projects$3,997,919
Dr. Rongfu WangUniversity of Southern CaliforniaNovel T cell receptor-STEM T cell immunotherapy in lung cancerTherapeutic Translational Research Projects$5,689,540
Dr Jianhua YuCity of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteSpecific Targeting Hypoxia Metastatic Breast Tumor with Allogeneic Off-the-Shelf Anti-EGFR CAR NK Cells Expressing an ODD domain of HIF-1αTherapeutic Translational Research Projects$6,036,002
Preet M ChaudharyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaNext generation affinity-tuned CAR for prostate cancerTherapeutic Translational Research Projects$5,805,144
Dr. Hideho OkadaUniversity of California, San FranciscoDevelopment of novel synNotch CART cell therapy in patients with recurrent EGFRvIII+ glioblastomaTherapeutic Translational Research Projects$4,556,536
Cristina Puig SausUniversity of California, Los AngelesCAR-Tnm cell therapy for melanoma targeting TYRP-1Therapeutic Translational Research Projects$5,904,462
Dr. Hideho OkadaUniversity of California, San FranciscoDevelopment of novel synNotch CART cell therapy in patients with recurrent EGFRvIII+ glioblastomaTherapeutic Translational Research Projects$525,000
Prof. Karen S Aboody M.D.City of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteNeural Stem cell-mediated oncolytic immunotherapy for ovarian cancerTherapeutic Translational Research Projects$2,873,262
Dr. William J MurphyUniversity of California, DavisPlacental Derived Natural Killer Cells to Target Solid Tumor Cancer Stem Cells (CSC)Therapeutic Translational Research Projects$0
Dr. Albert J WongStanford University2nd Generation Vaccine for the Treatment of GlioblastomaTherapeutic Translational Research Projects$2,929,889
Dr. Hideho OkadaUniversity of California, San FranciscoPhase 1 Study of Autologous E-SYNC T Cells in Adult Participants with EGFRvIII+ GlioblastomaClinical Trial Stage Projects$10,927,618
Dr. Reena Parada ThomasStanford UniversityPhase I Trial of Locoregionally Delivered Autologous B7-H3 CAR T Cells (B7-H3CART) in Adults with Recurrent Glioblastoma MultiformeClinical Trial Stage Projects$11,999,991
Anusha KalbasiStanford UniversityStem-Derived IL13Ra2 Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cells for Patients with Melanoma and Advanced Solid TumorsClinical Trial Stage Projects$10,211,085
Pei WangEureka Therapeutics, Inc.Autologous ARTEMIS® T Cells to Treat Refractory/Relapsed Pediatric Liver CancerClinical Trial Stage Projects$10,600,072
Ivan KingTachyon Therapeutics, IncTACH101: A Potent, First-In-Class KDM4 Inhibitor for Advanced CancersClinical Trial Stage Projects$6,862,609
Dr Jana PortnowCity of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteA Phase I Study of Multiple doses of NSC-Based Oncolytic Virotherapy Administered Intracerebrally to Patients with Recurrent High-Grade GliomasClinical Trial Stage Projects$11,999,984
Dr. Pamela Reilly ContagBioEclipse Therapeutics INC.PHASE 1, OPEN LABEL, DOSE-ESCALATION STUDY OF CRX100 IN PATIENTS WITH ADVANCED SOLID TUMORSClinical Trial Stage Projects$7,999,689
Crystal MackallStanford UniversityPhase 1 Clinical Trial of Autologous GD2 Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cells for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas and Spinal Diffuse Midline GliomaClinical Trial Stage Projects$11,998,310
Dr. Leo D WangCity of Hope, Beckman Research InstitutePhase I Study of IL13Rα2-Targeting CAR T Cells After Lymphodepletion for Children with Refractory or Recurrent Malignant Brain TumorsClinical Trial Stage Projects$8,401,309
Dr Saul J PricemanCity of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteA Phase I Study of Chimeric Antigen Receptor Engineered Stem/Memory T Cells for the Treatment of HER2-Positive Brain MetastasesClinical Trial Stage Projects$9,015,149
Theodore Scott NowickiUniversity of California, Los AngelesGenetic Modification of Stem Cells and T cells to Activate the Immune System to Target Solid TumorsClinical Trial Stage Projects$4,230,000
Steven M. DubinettUniversity of California, Los AngelesA phase I trial of intratumoral administration of CCL21-gene modified dendritic cell (DC) combined with intravenous pembrolizumab for advanced NSCLCClinical Trial Stage Projects$10,955,315
Dr. Christine E. BrownCity of Hope, Beckman Research InstitutePhase I Study of Chimeric Antigen Receptor Engineered Central Memory T cells for the Treatment of Malignant GliomaClinical Trial Stage Projects$12,753,854
Mark ChaoForty 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 CancerClinical Trial Stage Projects$0
Anthony J. GringeriImmunoCellular TherapeuticsA Phase III randomized double-blind, controlled study of ICT 107 with maintenance temozolomide (TMZ) in newly diagnosed glioblastoma following resection and concomitant TMZ chemoradiotherapyClinical Trial Stage Projects$5,391,016
Robert DillmanCaladrius BiosciencesTumor stem cell-targeted immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma –a randomized phase 3 clinical trial.Clinical Trial Stage Projects$3,000,000
Shahab AsgharzadehChildren’s Hospital of Los AngelesChimeric TGFB Signaling Receptor (CTSR) Enabled Anti-B7H3 CAR T-cell Therapy in Children and AYA with Recurrent Solid TumorsLate Stage Preclinical Projects$5,954,784
Prof. Karen S Aboody M.D.City of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteNeural stem cell delivered CRAd-S-pk7 oncolytic viro-immunotherapy for ovarian cancerLate Stage Preclinical Projects$5,314,547
Dr. David R StoverNammi Therapeutics, Inc.IND-Enabling activities for the masked immunocytokine, QXL138AMLate Stage Preclinical Projects$3,999,113
8587949607 Boris MinevCalidi Biotherapeutics, Inc.Allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells loaded with oncolytic virus for cancer treatmentLate Stage Preclinical Projects$3,111,467
Devon J ShedlockPoseida Therapeutics, Inc.Late-Stage Preclinical Study of CAR-T Memory Stem Cells Targeting PSMA (P-PSMA-101) for the Treatment of Castrate-Resistant Metastatic Prostate CancerLate Stage Preclinical Projects$3,992,090
Dr. Angelo Manuel Almeida Cardoso Ph.D., MDCity of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteEx Vivo Gene Engineering of Blood Stem Cells for Enhanced Chemotherapy Efficacy in Glioblastoma PatientsLate Stage Preclinical Projects$3,684,259
Dr Bob ValamehrFate Therapeutics, Inc.IND enabling development of FT516: A Natural Killer Cell Immunotherapy for Cancer Derived from a Human Inducible Pluripotent Stem CellLate Stage Preclinical Projects$4,000,000
Dr. Michael E. Barish Ph, D.City of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteGenetically-modified neural stem cells for treatment of high-grade gliomaDisease Team Planning$55,000
Dr. David A. ChereshUniversity of California, San DiegoCD61-driven stemness program in epithelial cancerBasic Biology V$1,161,000
Dr. Dennis J SlamonUniversity of California, Los AngelesA 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 tumorsDisease Team Therapy Development III$5,683,693
Dr. Irving L Weissman MDStanford UniversityClinical Investigation of a Humanized Anti-CD47 Antibody in Targeting Cancer Stem Cells in Hematologic Malignancies and Solid TumorsDisease Team Therapy Development III$6,505,568
Dr. Robert Reiter MDUniversity of California, Los AngelesClinical Development of an N-cadherin Antibody to Target Cancer Stem CellsEarly Translational IV$4,075,668
Michelle MonjeStanford UniversityWhite matter neuroregeneration after chemotherapy: stem cell therapy for “chemobrain”New Faculty Physician Scientist$2,800,526
Dr. Owen N Witte M.D.University of California, Los AngelesTrop2 dependent and independent mechanisms of self-renewal in human cancer stem cellsBasic Biology IV$1,254,960
Dr. Antoni Ribas M.D., Ph.D.University of California, Los AngelesGenetic Re-programming of Stem Cells to Fight CancerDisease Team Therapy Development – Research$14,144,221
Dr. Stephen J FormanCity of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteTargeting glioma cancer stem cells with receptor-engineered self-renewing memory T cellsEarly Translational III$5,215,447
Dr. Albert J WongStanford UniversityRecombinant Bispecific Antibody Targeting Cancer Stem Cells for the Therapy of GlioblastomaDisease Team Therapy Planning I$109,750
Dr. Antoni Ribas M.D., Ph.D.University of California, Los AngelesGenetic Re-programming of Stem Cells to Fight CancerDisease Team Therapy Planning I$97,785
Dr. Noriyuki KasaharaUniversity of California, Los AngelesStem cell-based carriers for RCR vector delivery to glioblastomaEarly Translational II$3,340,625
Dr. Robert J Wechsler-ReyaSanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery InstituteThe role of neural stem cells in cerebellar development, regeneration and tumorigenesisResearch Leadership$5,226,049
Dr. Siavash KurdistaniUniversity of California, Los AngelesEpigenetics in cancer stem cell initiation and clinical outcome predictionNew Faculty I$3,063,450
Dr. Antoni Ribas M.D., Ph.D.University of California, Los AngelesStem Cells for Immune System Regeneration to Fight CancerNew Faculty II$3,072,000
Dr. Brigitte N GompertsUniversity of California, Los AngelesStem Cells in Lung CancerNew Faculty II$2,381,572
Dr. Jerome A. Zack Ph.D.University of California, Los AngelesGeneration of clinical grade human iPS cellsNew Cell Lines$1,341,000
Dr. Zoran GalicUniversity of California, Los AngelesGenetic Enhancement of the Immune Response to Melanoma via hESC-derived T cellsSEED Grant$616,800
Dr. Elizabeth Rachel LawlorChildren’s Hospital of Los AngeleshESC as tools to investigate the neural crest origin of Ewing’s sarcomaSEED Grant$595,576
Dr. Mitchel S BergerUniversity of California, San FranciscoStem Cell-Mediated Oncocidal Gene Therapy of Glioblastoma (GBM)Disease Team Research I$6,214,914
Prof. Karen S Aboody M.D.City of Hope, Beckman Research InstituteStem Cell-mediated Therapy for High-grade Glioma: Toward Phase I-II Clinical TrialsDisease Team Research I$17,890,623
Dr. Dennis J SlamonUniversity of California, Los AngelesTherapeutic Opportunities To Target Tumor Initiating Cells in Solid TumorsDisease Team Research I$19,979,660

CIRM Cancer Stem Cell Videos

Patient’s Stage IV Cancer Vanishes during CIRM-Funded Clinical Trial

Role of Stem Cells on Cognitive Dysfunction after Cancer Therapy

Michael Rothenberg, Stanford – CIRM Stem Cell #SciencePitch

Paul Knoepfler, UC Davis – CIRM Stem Cell #SciencePitch

Amy Sprowles, Humboldt State University – CIRM Stem Cell #SciencePitch

Yi Eve Sun, UCLA – CIRM Stem Cell #SciencePitch 2

Spotlight on Cancer Stem Cells

Genetic Molecule Enables Safer Method For Creating iPS Cells

Catriona Jamieson Talks About Therapies Based on Cancer Stem Cells

News about solid tumor research


Find Out More:
Stem Cell FAQ | Stem Cell Videos | What We Fund