Contact Information
Karen S. Aboody, M.D.
  • Professor, Department of Neurosciences and Division of Neurosurgery
  • Co-leader, Developmental Cancer Therapeutics Program
  • Scientist Leader, Neuro-Oncology Disease Team


Professional Experience

  • 2014-pres. Co-leader, Developmental Cancer Therapeutics Program City of Hope National Medical Center and Beckman Research Institute, Duarte, CA
  • 2013-pres. Professor, Department of Neurosciences and Division of Neurosurgery City of Hope National Medical Center and Beckman Research Institute, Duarte, CA
  • 2011-pres. Founder, Director and Chief Scientific Officer, TheraBiologics, Inc., CA
  • 2009-2013 Associate Professor, Dept of Neurosciences and Division of Neurosurgery, City of Hope
  • 2003-2009 Assistant Professor, Dept of Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Therapy, City of Hope National Medical Center and Beckman Research Institute, Duarte, CA
  • 2000-2002 Visiting Scientist, Neuro-Oncology Lab., Dept of Neurosurgery, Brigham & Women’s Hospital; Instructor, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  • 1999-2002 Senior Research Scientist, Layton BioScience Inc., Sunnyvale, CA
  • 1999-2000 Visiting Scientist/Industry Fellow in Neurology, Children’s Hosp, Harvard Med School
  • 1997-1998 Research Fellow, Neural Stem Cell Biology, Department of Neurology, Div of Neuroscience & Joint Program in Neonatology Children's Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  • 1994-1997 Post-Doc Research Fellow, Molecular Neurogenetics Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hosp/Harvard Med School, Charlestown, MA.   Pre-clin Study Leader: Gene Therapy Trials.
  • 1993-1994 Pathology Intern/Clinical Fellow in Pathology, Beth Israel Hospital/Harvard Medical School
  • 1992-1994 Medical Student, Neuropathology Research Assist. Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY
  • 1990-1991 Res Assist, Molecular Neurobiology, Dept of Psychiatry, Mass General Hospital, Boston, MA


  • 1998 - 2000, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Post-doc Development Neurobiology/Stem Cells
  • 1994-97, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Post-doc, Molecular Neurogenetics
  • 1993-94 Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, Pathology, intern.
  • 1993, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, M.D., Medicine
  • 1984, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, Biological Basis of Behavior/Chemistry, B.A.


  • 2008, Outstanding New Investigator Award - American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT)
  • 2000, Young Investigator Award, American Association of Neurosurgical Surgeons (CNS Tumor Section)


  • 2007 - present, International Society for Cellular Therapeutics
  • 2006- present, ASILOMAR International Brain Tumor Research and Therapy
  • 2006 - present, American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy
  • 2003 - present, Glial Invasion Forum
  • 2003 - present, International Society for Stem Cell Research
  • 2000 - present, Society for Neuro-Oncology
  • 2000 - present, American Association for Cancer Research, Women in Cancer Research


Selected Publications
  • Mooney R, Roma L, Zhao D, Van Haute D, Garcia E, Kim SU, Annala A, Aboody KS* and Berlin J* (*PIs contributed equally): Neural stem cell-mediated delivery of gold nanorods improves intratumoral photothermal therapy.  ACS Nano 2014 Nov 6.
  • Metz MZ*, Gutova M*, Lacey SF, Abramyants Y, Vo T, Gilchrist M, Tirughana R, Ghoda LY, Barish ME, Brown CE, Najbauer J, Potter PM, Portnow, J, Synold TW, and Aboody KS:  Neural stem cell mediated delivery of irinotecan-activating carboxylesterases to glioma: Implications for clinical use. Stem Cells Transl Med 2013 Dec;2(12):983-92.
  • Tobias AL, Bart T, Auffinger B, Rincon E, Balyasnikova IV, Kim CK, Han Y, Zhang L, Aboody KS, Ahmed AU, Lesniak MS:  The timing of neural stem cell based virotherapy is critical for optimal therapeutic efficacy when applied with radiation and chemotherapy for the treatment of glioblastoma. Stem Cells Trans Med 2013 Sep;2(9):655-66.
  • Aboody KS, Najbauer J, Metz MZ, D’Apuzzo M, Gutova M, Annala AJ, Synold TW, Couture LA, Blanchard S, Moats RA, Garcia E, Aramburo S, Valenzuela V, Frank RT, Barish ME, Kim SU, Badie B, Portnow J:  Neural stem cell-mediated enzyme-prodrug therapy for glioma: preclinical studies.  Sci Trans Med 2013 May 8;5(184):184ra59.
  • Aboody, KS. Researchers and the translational reality (Interview). Regen Med. 2012 Nov;7(6 Suppl):64-6.
  • Zhao D, Najbauer J, Annala AJ, Garcia E, Metz MZ, Gutova M, Polewski MD, Gilchrist M, Glackin C, Kim SU, and Aboody KS:  Human neural stem cell tropism to metastatic breast cancer. Stem Cells 2012 Feb;30(2):314-25.
  • Aboody K, Capela A, Niazi N, Stern JH, Temple S: Translating stem cell studies to the clinic for CNS repair: Current state of the art and the need for a rosetta stone. Neuron 2011 May 26;70(4):597 613.
  • Frank RT, Edmiston M, Kendall SE, Najbauer J, Cheung CW, Kassa T, Metz MZ, Kim SU, Glackin CA, Wu AM, Yazaki PJ and Aboody KS:  Neural stem cells as a novel platform for tumor-specific delivery of therapeutic antibodies. PLoS One 2009 Dec 15;4(12):e8314.
  • Aboody KS, Najbauer J, Danks MK:  Stem and progenitor cell-mediated tumor selective gene therapy (Review). Gene Therapy 2008 15: 739-752.
  • Danks MK, Yoon KJ, Bush RA, Remack JS, Wierdl M, Tsurkan L, Kim SU, Garcia E, Metz M, Najbauer J, Potter PM, Aboody KS: Tumor-targeted enzyme/prodrug therapy mediates long-term disease-free survival of mice bearing disseminated neuroblastoma. Cancer Res 2007 Jan 1;67(1):22-5.
  • Aboody KS, Bush RA, Garcia E, Metz MZ, Najbauer J, Justus KA, Phelps DA, Remack JS, Yoon, KJ, Gillespie S, Kim SU, Glackin CA, Potter PM, Danks MK: Development of a Tumor-selective Approach to Treat Metastatic Cancer. PLoS One 2006 Dec 20;1:e23.  Commentaries in Nature Clinical Practice 4:270-271, 2007, and on line in: PLoS Medicine (E:12,e482), Jan8, 2007, Jan 8 2007, and Jan4, 2007.
  • Aboody KS, Brown A, Rainov NG, Bower KA, Liu S, Yang W, Small JE, Herrlinger U, Ourednik V, Black PM, Breakefield XO and Snyder EY:  From the Cover: Neural stem cells display extensive tropism for pathology in adult brain:  Evidence from intracranial gliomas. PNAS (+ commentary) 2000 Nov 7;97(23):12846-51.


  • City of Hope - Main Campus (Duarte)
    1500 East Duarte Road
    Duarte, CA 91010

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trials:
Recurrent High Grade Glioma
Clinical PI:  Dr. Jana Portnow
COH IRB #13401

A Phase I Study of Cytosine Deaminase-Expressing Neural Stem Cells with Oral 5-Fluorocytosine and Leucovorin for Treatment of Recurrent High-Grade Gliomas is currently enrolling patients over the age of 18 with recurrent grade III or IV gliomas.

Neural Stem Cells have a natural ability to home to tumor cells throughout the brain. They can be genetically modified to produce chemotherapy at sites of tumor. Neural stem cells are being investigated as a possible treatment for brain tumors.
During removal or biopsy of tumor, research participants will receive local injections of genetically-modified neural stem cells (NSCs).  These NSCs express the activating enzyme cytosine deaminase (CD), which converts the prodrug 5-fluorocytosine (5-FC) into the chemotherapy agent 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). Research participants will then take 5-FC orally for seven days. As the 5-FC crosses into the brain, the CD-expressing NSCs (which have migrated to residual cancer sites) are expected to convert the 5-FC into 5-FU.  The 5-FU and its toxic metabolites will diffuse out of the NSC to preferentially kill rapidly dividing tumor cells. It is hoped that this strategy will have a large “bystander effect,” meaning that one NSC can kill off many surrounding tumor cells while minimizing toxicity to healthy tissues. Some study patients will also take leucovorin with 5-FC. Leucovorin is an oral medication that can help 5-FU work better against cancer cells.  A Rickham catheter, placed in the brain at the time of surgery, will be used to administer additional doses of NSCs every 2 weeks, followed each time by 7 day courses of oral 5-FC (and possibly leucovorin).
Partial Eligibility Requirements:

  • Patient has had a prior, histologically-confirmed diagnosis of a grade III or grade IV glioma (including glioblastoma, anaplastic astrocytoma, gliosarcoma, anaplastic oligodendroglioma or anaplastic oligoastrocytoma.
  • Patient is eligible for a debulking craniotomy or biopsy independent of intended treatment with genetically-modified NSCs and 5-FC.
  • Patient's high-grade glioma has recurred or progressed after chemoradiation.

If you are interested in learning more about this clinical trial or in referring a patient for enrollment, please contact Alexandra Ching, N.P., at 626-471-9393 or via email at  For a summary of this study including the full eligibility criteria, visit City of Hope’s clinical trials website at and enter “13401” in the keyword search.
Recurrent High Grade Glioma
Clinical PI:  Dr. Jana Portnow
COH IRB #14108

FDA approval pending
A Phase I Study of Intracranially Administered Carboxylesterase-Expressing Neural Stem Cells in Combination with Intravenous Irinotecan in Patients with Recurrent High Grade Gliomas
Clinical Trials Planned