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Michael F. Clarke, MD

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

Current Research

  • Seeking to understand the role of cancer stem cells on tumor cell dormancy and cancer recurrence.
  • Analysis of patient samples is ongoing to identify novel treatment strategies against breast cancer stem cells.
  • Effectively targeting cancer stem cells could markedly improve the outcome of patients with breast cancer.

Breast cancer recurrence is a serious clinical challenge, because breast cancers that recur are more difficult to treat. Breast cancer stem cells are thought to be the drivers of recurrence because of their ability to survive cancer therapy and lie dormant for many years. Dr. Clarke is conducting studies to target the cancer stem cells to reduce the risk of recurrence and breast cancer deaths.

Full Research Summary

Dr. Clarke's laboratory was the first to identify breast cancer stem cells, a minority population of cancer cells that are responsible for the growth and spread of breast cancer, a process called metastasis. The cancer stem cell population is resistant to cancer therapies and can remain dormant for many years after treatment.

Tumor dormancy is an unpredictable length of time when hidden tumor cells exist quietly without clinical manifestation and is one of the most pressing problems in breast cancer.

Having analyzed tumor and clinical data from over 2000 breast cancer patients, Dr. Clarke's team identified a “dormancy” gene involved in cancer stem cell survival that may be able to predict which cancers are like to recur. 

They have now identified new therapeutic targets and are working to develop inhibitors against these targets and to identify biomarkers that can predict which patients are at high risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Achieving these goals has the potential to markedly improve the outcome of patients with 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.

Grid Reasercher Headshot - Clarke Michael

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Hamptons Paddle & Party for Pink Award

Area(s) of Focus