The problem of cancer
Cancer is, unfortunately, a highly complex disease. In fact, cancer is better thought of as a collection of more than 200 distinct diseases, each affecting distinct tissues, and each with unique causes and solutions. Because of this complexity, there won’t be a single cure for cancer. The CRL aims to understand the diverse causes of cancer and, by using this knowledge, to develop novel approaches to solve this difficult problem.
In general, cancer arises when normal cells in the body accumulate mutations that cause them to divide and grow uncontrollably, forming tumors. Once cells start to multiply uncontrollably, they can spread throughout the body and invade other tissues, a process called metastasis. Once a tumor has metastasized, it becomes much more difficult to treat. Despite years of research, and some significant progress, cancer remains a major cause of human mortality, with approximately 8 million deaths per year worldwide.
How the CRL is researching the next breakthrough
The CRL is founded on the belief that the best way to tackle cancer is through fundamental research into its causes. Fundamental research is the only way to innovate new solutions to the problem of cancer.
UC Berkeley is world-renowned for its Faculty that are studying many diverse aspects of cancer in numerous Departments across campus. We believe that the best way to solve the problem of cancer is to bring together diverse insights and approaches. More than 50 Faculty are associated with the CRL. Some of these Faculty are trying to dissect the fundamental mechanisms of cellular growth. Other Faculty are trying to harness the power of the immune system to attack tumors. Still other Faculty are trying to develop novel methods of cancer diagnosis.
The CRL supports the joint efforts of our Faculty by providing access to cutting edge technologies that are essential for their research. These technologies are in general too expensive or too complex for a single laboratory to acquire or maintain. However, by providing these technologies in centralized core facilities, the CRL can support the efforts of UC Berkeley scientists to research the next breakthrough.
The Story of Yervoy (Ipilimumab)
A great example of how fundamental research in the CRL has led to novel cancer therapies is the story of a new antibody drug called Yervoy (Ipilimumab). Working in the CRL in the 1990s, Dr. James P. Allison and his colleagues developed a novel approach to cancer therapy. This approach is now called “checkpoint blockade” and was declared the 2013 Breakthrough of the Year by Science magazine and has been featured in the New York Times. The idea behind checkpoint blockade is to use the power of the immune system to attack cancer. Read more →
Here are some other stories of how research at UC Berkeley has led to breakthroughs in cancer therapy:
CRL Research Highlight
Research in the CRL is continually leading to new insights into the problem of cancer. In one recent study, published recently in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the Raulet Lab has shed new light on how an important class of anti-tumor immune cells, called Natural Killer (NK) Cells, are able to attack and eliminate senescent tumors.
p53-dependent chemokine production by senescent tumor cells supports NKG2D-dependent tumor elimination by natural killer cells
Iannello A, Thompson TW, Ardolino M, Lowe SW, Raulet DH (2013), Journal of Experimental Medicine 2013 Sep 23;210(10):2057-69. doi:10.1084/jem.20130783.