The Stanford University School of Medicine has received a $20 million gift to establish a new world-class research enterprise to study cancer stem cells, which are believed to be at the heart of most cancers.
The New York-based Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Fund announced Nov. 14 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.
“These funds will enable us not only to advance our initiatives on human cancer stem cells, but also to strengthen other unique aspects of Stanford’s cancer activities—from genomics to clinical care,” said Irving Weissman, MD, who in 2005 assumed a professorship at Stanford endowed by the fund—the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research. (Another Ludwig chair was endowed in 1998 and is held by Lucy Shapiro, PhD.)
Weissman, who first identified blood-forming stem cells in humans and mice, will direct the new enterprise. Michael Clarke, MD, professor of medicine (oncology) and the first scientist to identify cancer stem cells in breast cancer will serve as its deputy director.
In addition to promoting cancer stem cell research at Stanford, Weissman said he hoped Stanford researchers would, through the Ludwig network, interact with other groups that are complementary to their work.
For instance, Weissman noted that scientists with the Ludwig Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering are focused on the immunology of cancer; Stanford researchers will collaborate with them in examining the immune responses to cancer stem cells, he said.