The Stanford University School of Medicine said on November 14 that it will use a $20 million gift to establish a research center to study cancer stem cells.
The New York-based Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Fund said that the money was part of a $120 million commitment – one of the largest gifts ever by a private foundation for cancer research – for Stanford and five other academic centers nationwide.
At Stanford the funding will be used to launch the Ludwig Center for Cancer Stem Cell Research and Medicine, and build upon the distinguished discoveries that Stanford researchers have made in this field.
The goal of the center is to identify and better understand the role of these elusive cells in common cancers and then use this knowledge to develop more effective treatments. Most of the initial grant will be used to create a permanent endowment for the Ludwig Center.
Cancer stem cells were first found in acute myeloid leukemia in 1994 and have since been found in solid tumors, including brain, breast and prostate tumors.
These stem cells have the exclusive ability to generate new cancer cells and cause the disease to spread. Thus, it appears that any treatment that leaves cancer stem cells behind will inevitably cause a patient to relapse.
The ultimate goal of cancer stem cell research at Stanford will be to develop therapies that target and destroy these critical cells.
Researchers will begin by working to identify and characterize the stem cells in various tumor types.
Stanford scientists already are collaborating in efforts to isolate stem cells in a wide range of solid tumors, including brain, ovarian, head and neck, lung, bladder, prostate, colon, breast and melanoma.
The next step will be to trace the biological pathways that enable them to self-renew and ultimately to develop and test new treatments to stop them from proliferating.
The Ludwig Fund was created by American billionaire businessman Daniel K. Ludwig, who died in 1992, leaving much of his fortune for cancer research.