Jefferson Establishes New Center to Study Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine


Dr. Michael Lisanti

Dr. Michael Lisanti

Thomas Jefferson University has established a new center to study the biology, behavior and the potential medical uses of adult stem cells in a variety of diseases, including neurological disease and cancer.

The Jefferson Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Center will be directed by renowned cell biologist Michael P. Lisanti, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Cancer Biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson.

According to Dr. Lisanti, who is also the Margaret Q. Landenberger Professor of Breast Cancer Research at Jefferson, one center focus will be on the uses of adult stem cells for tissue regeneration in a variety of injuries and disease conditions, such as brain injury after stroke, Parkinson’s disease and the damaged heart and cardiovascular system after heart attack.

The other area of concentration will be on cancer stem cells, both in solid tumors such as breast, prostate and pancreas and in blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. “It’s thought that cancer stem cells that are resistant to therapy are also important in conveying drug resistance,” notes Dr. Lisanti.

“We want to identify and develop new biomarkers to perform patient stratification so that we can do early detection and potentially find out who might benefit from chemotherapy and/or radiation,” he explains.

“The new stem cell biology and regenerative medicine center, under Michael Lisanti’s leadership, will be catalytic in clinical translational science initiatives across cardiovascular, neurological disease and cancer disciplines at Jefferson,” says Kimmel Cancer Center director Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D. “This center at Jefferson will serve as a national hub for our ongoing collaboration with other national and international stem cell center partners.”

Dr. Lisanti says that Jefferson scientists plan to use both cell and mouse models to identify potential biomarkers and then test their validity with tumor microarray technology. For example, using a mouse model of pre-cancerous conditions in breast or prostate tissue, researchers can use gene-based microarrays to actually profile the individual genes involved. “Once you come up with a new gene signature, you can rapidly screen these candidate biomarkers using tumor tissue microarrays to see if they have predictive value. Then you could potentially offer alternative therapies very early on rather than after the development of drug resistance,” Dr. Lisanti points out. “We think we have some novel cancer stem cell biomarkers in the pipeline.”

The new center consists of seven programs: blood and immune cells; bone, cartilage and muscle; brain and nervous system; cancer; tissue and organ regeneration; reproduction and fertility; and skin.

The center will also encourage more scientific relationships at Jefferson. “We’ve already set up collaborations across the university in both the basic and clinical sciences,” Dr. Lisanti notes, adding that Jefferson already has a stem cell working group. “The center will be the focus for new multi-investigator grants and new educational opportunities.” In addition, the center is establishing ties with other local institutions, such as Lankenau Institute for Medical Research in Wynnewood and Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center in Wilmington. International collaborations are also underway.