Bob Weinberg featured in Science Magazine

bob-weinberg“The Cancer Stem Cell Gamble”

Robert Weinberg is one of the world’s best known cancer biologists, thanks largely to his pioneering work identifying genes that underlie tumor development. He has seen hopes for cancer treatments come and go. “I’ve been in this business for better or worse for 40 years. Many of the things that we’ve worked on have proved to be relatively useless in the clinic.” But at 72, he is optimistic again. “This is really the first time where I’m positioned to help effect the development of an agent or agents that actually will benefit cancer patients,” he says.

The Whitehead Institute Faculty Member and MIT researcher is now staking part of his considerable reputation, and nearly $200 million that investors have given to a company he co-founded, on a bold theory that has divided the cancer field. Weinberg and others contend that tumors contain a small number of cells that are distinctive because they resemble the stem cells that give rise to normal tissues. They believe that these cancer seeds, able to resist chemotherapy and spring back months or years after treatment, may explain the tragic relapses people often experience. Target these cancer stem cells specifically, the thinking goes, and the disease can be kept under control.

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