Cancer Program

The HSCI Cancer Program is working on defining the fundamental molecular and genetic differences between cancer stem cells and their normal counterparts. The development of more effective stem cell-directed therapies--and the eventual eradication of cancer--depends on our understanding of how a normal stem cell becomes a cancer cell.

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Key Research Questions

The HSCI Cancer Program sparks collaborations across Harvard's schools and hospitals to answer the following:

  • What are the critical genes and pathways that sufficiently distinguish cancer from normal stem cells?
  • Which of the genes and pathways identified would serve as candidate targets for therapy?

Key Scientific Results

Scientific findings from the HSCI Cancer Program include:

  • Isolation and molecular characterization of normal stem cell populations from mouse intestine and colon.
  • Demonstration that b-catenin is required for leukemia stem cell development and survival.
  • Investigation of the selective role of oncogenic KRAS signaling in clonogenic cells isolated from human pancreatic tumors.
  • Identification and investigation of key pathways operating in lung tumor-propagating cells.
  • Early development of imaging technologies to visualize single tumor-initiating stem cells in the laboratory.