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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Hamptons Paddle & Party for Pink Award

Area(s) of Focus

Michael F. Clarke, MD

Karel and Abice Beekhuis Endowed Professor
Professor of Internal Medicine
Associate Director of the Stem and Regenerative Medicine Institute
Stanford University
Palo Alto, California

Current Research

Dr. Clarke’s laboratory was the first to identify breast cancer stem cells, a minority population of cancer cells which are responsible for the growth and spread of breast cancer to distant sites, a process called metastasis. These cells are ultimately responsible for cancer-related death in women with this disease. During the course of their BCRF study, Dr. Clarke’s team identified two genes critical for cancer stem cell functions. One of the genes seems to predict whether patients with estrogen receptor negative cancers will respond to chemotherapy. The second gene regulates normal stem cell dormancy. Tumor dormancy, an unpredictable length of time when occult tumor cells exist quietly without clinical manifestation, is one of the most pressing problems in breast cancer, and is responsible for late relapses. Having analyzed tumor and clinical data from over 2000 breast cancer patients, Dr. Clarke’s team found that tumors that contain high levels of this dormancy gene are much more likely to recur. In the coming year, they will test a novel immune approach developed at Stanford University to eliminate the cancer stem cells that persist after standard chemotherapy. Results from these studies could have immediate impact by identifying patients likely to relapse and may provide insights into new drugs that could prevent relapse and death in women with early stage breast cancer.


Michael Clarke, MD is a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University. He is the Karel and Avice Beekhuis Professor in Cancer Biology and Associate Director of the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. His interest is in Stem Cell Biology. In addition to clinical duties in oncology, Dr. Clarke maintains a laboratory focused on two areas of research: i) the control of self-renewal of normal stem cells and diseases such as cancer and hereditary diseases; and ii) the identification and characterization of cancer stem cells. His laboratory is pursuing how perturbations in the self-renewal machinery contribute to human disease. His focus is to aid in the development of more effective treatment therapies for various forms of cancer.