Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Self-Renewal, Growth & Survival Pathways


Developed by Patrick Brown, MD, PhD, in the early 1990s, microarray technology has transformed the ability of researchers to assess differences in genetic expression between normal and cancerous cells.


Researchers are working to characterize the signaling pathways that govern the behavior of today's known cancer stem cells. These pathways control the processes of self-renewal, growth and immune evasion.

Self-renewal is the process by which stem cells regenerate themselves. Normal adult stem cells help the body repair itself by replenishing differentiated cells in bone marrow, brain, muscle and other tissues. In contrast, cancer stem cells use the process of self-renewal to generate new cancer cells and cause cancerous growth.

Learning how cancer stem cells undertake self-renewal is the first step toward developing therapies that can target the cancer propagation machine. For example, program researchers are investigating which proteins go awry in the adult stem cells that underlie cancers of the blood, breast, ovaries, lung, brain and bladder, among others. Through this work, researchers hope to develop new drugs that shut down these abnormally active proteins.

To facilitate this research, program members have developed a novel immunodeficient mouse model that enables them to study the behavior of individual cancer cells in vivo. While important information about cancer genes has been gained studying cancer cell lines in the in vitro environment, the biological properties they express in this context often differ significantly from those found in de novo cancer cells.

Using the mouse model, researchers are now able to study cancer cells taken from a patient’s tumor and test their ability to form a new tumor. To do this, researchers orthotopically transplant the patient’s cells into the mouse, placing them into the same tissue from which they were taken.

Program Researchers

Margaret Fuller

Gerald Crabtree

Roeland Nusse

Theo Palmer

Matthew Scott

Seung Kim, PhD


Stanford Medicine Resources:

Footer Links: