I am excited to learn of today’s announcement that two large-scale projects to tackle stem cell therapies for cancer are to be funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium (CSCC). This is most welcome news, not only because it demonstrates a continued investment in stem cell science but because both projects have a critical Canadian component – both projects will be co-led by Canadian investigators.
Half of adults diagnosed with leukemia succumb to the disease. The first project will address the need for novel treatments for leukemia, by developing agents to directly target leukemic stem cells that are resistant to current therapies. This project will be led by Dr. John Dick, Princess Margaret Hospital and Dr. Dennis Carson, University of California San Diego.
The second project will target solid tumor cancers by developing small molecule therapeutics that attack the cancer-initiating cells within the tumors. This project is led by Dr. Tak Mak, Princess Margaret Hospital and Dr. Dennis Slamon, University of California, Los Angeles.
An interesting note is that both Canadian investigators named in the projects are affiliated with the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto –the same hospital in which stem cells were discovered by Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch nearly 50 years ago. Both Canadian leaders are internationally recognized for their contributions to the stem cell field and they remain at the forefront of cancer stem cell research. Dr. Dick first identified cancer stem cells in 1994 and Dr. Mak’s contributions to immunology have led to significant breakthroughs in understanding cancer biology.
These projects are two of 14 projects that were selected through peer-review by an international committee and will be funded as part of CIRM’s Disease Team Competition, of which the CSCC is a collaborative funding partner. Each project may receive up to $40 million (USD) over four years, with funding for the Canadian investigators contributed by Genome Canada and Canadian Institutes of Health Research through the CSCC and funding for the Californian investigators contributed by CIRM.
CIRM media release
CSCC media release
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