Mick Bhatia

Mick represents the kind of imagination and determination apparent in the next generation of stem cell biologists. His work has recently led to an understanding of how stem cells can regenerate blood cells in patients suffering from leukemia and other kinds of cancer. Mick is Director and Senior Scientist at the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute and a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University.

Defeating Cancer

A cure for cancer. It’s a phrase that often stands as a symbol of man’s eventual triumph over external factors that feel beyond our control. Yet stem cell science could indeed lead to an eventual cure for cancer. That’s the dream of Mick Bhatia.  The interesting thing about stem cells and cancer is that cancerous tissue is composed of stem cells — stem cells that form cancerous growths and multiply out of control. You might say this is the flip side of stem cells, when the regenerative power of stem cells creates disease instead of health.

Mick’s frustration is that, until now, we’ve only been able to manage the disease, often with treatments that have debilitating side effects themselves. But understanding how these cancerous stem cells behave is at the root of not just treating cancer, but defeating it. Mick’s research has been instrumental in increasing this understanding in order to advance the field towards new therapies.

Drug treatments are now being identified to selectively prohibit the survival and growth of cancer stem cells. This is happening in regards to a number of cancers including breast cancer, brain cancer and leukemia, and clinical trials are underway.

The work being done is getting closer and closer to what scientists like Mick believe is inevitable — beating the disease using stem cell biology.