California Stem Cell Agency Awards $4 million to Two City of Hope Scientists

July 14, 2017 | by Katie Neith

Yaun Chen Yuan Chen, Ph.D.
Two City of Hope research programs are among 13 projects to recently receive funding from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine’s Discovery Quest Awards Program. The initiative funds early-stage research with the goal of promoting the discovery of promising new stem cell-based technologies that could be translated to enable broad use and ultimately improve patient care.
The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) was created by the people of California in 2004 to accelerate stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs, and act with a sense of urgency to succeed in that mission.
Yuan Chen, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine in the Beckman Research Institute at City of Hope received a $1.8 million CIRM Discover Quest Award for her research on colorectal cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells (CSC) can initiate tumors and are tough to treat, as they evade conventional treatments.
Colorectal cancer, the focus of our studies, continues to be a leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.,” said Chen. “Despite the availability of around 10 different agents for treating metastatic colorectal cancer, overall survival has reached a plateau. A major roadblock is that the current therapies fail to eliminate cancer stem cells, which have the extraordinary ability to self-renew and generate new tumors.”
Chen and her team have identified a process, called SUMOylation, that plays a key role in CSCs’ capacity to self-renew and differentiate (also called stemness).
“With the support of this CIRM grant, our research will form the basis for further development of a therapeutic candidate targeting this central hub of stemness pathways required for CSC maintenance and ultimately lead to clinical trials for the treatment of metastatic colorectal and breast cancers.”
breakthroughs - markus muschen Markus Müschen, M.D., Ph.D.
An expert in childhood leukemia, Markus Müschen, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Systems Biology within Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, was awarded nearly $2.2 million for his work on B cell malignancies — blood cancers that affect a certain type of white blood cell called B cells.
“An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States are currently living with or recovering from B cell malignancies,” said Müschen, holder of the The Norman and Sadie Lee Foundation Professorship in Pediatrics. “Therefore, efforts to reduce toxicity and minimize late effects remain an important aspect in the development of new therapy strategies.”
He and his laboratory will use the CIRM grant to develop a therapy that targets leukemia-initiating cells, which give rise to drug-resistance and relapse and remain unsolved clinical problems in B cell tumors.
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