Cancer Avatar Project

California Pacific CURRENTS: The online journal of CPMC Research Institute

CPMCRI's Cancer Avatar Project

Patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models are mouse avatars. When transplanted from a human patient with cancer into a mouse, tumors retain the characteristics of the original specimen. PDX models allow researchers to test multiple drugs and drug combinations, to find the one best suited to individual patients.

California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute (CPMCRI) is leading an innovative program to further Sutter Health's cancer precision medicine research in Northern California through the Cancer Avatar Project—a living biology approach to translational research for fully individualized cancer care. Our cancer scientists are working with CPMC oncologists and surgeons to create cell culture and mouse models, or ‘avatars’, of patients’ tumors, which will give oncologists key information about how well a patient’s tumor might respond to a particular chemotherapy regimen. The Cancer Avatar Project has the potential to enable the delivery of truly personalized cancer care.

Our goal is to collect over 100 samples for each of eight common cancers (brain, colorectal, lung, melanoma, ovarian, pancreas, breast, and liver/biliary). Developing this comprehensive library will enable rapid prediction of the most effective treatment for CPMC cancer patients.

Learn more about the Cancer Avatar Project at CPMCRI.

For more information and to collaborate with us, contact Michael Rowbotham, M.D., CPMCRI Scientific Director, Cancer Avatar Project Lead.


Cancer Avatar Project Investigators and Research Areas

Shanaz Dairkee, Ph.D., leads circulating tumor cell and cancer cell culture efforts for the Cancer Avatar Project; shared lead on breast cancer; pioneered specialized techniques for studying live tumor cells from cancer specimens
Altaf Dar, Ph.D., leads basic science on pancreatic cancer, liver cancer and bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) for the Cancer Avatar Project; studies melanoma biomarkers and signaling pathways
David De Semir, Ph.D., leads basic science on ovarian cancer and lung cancer for the Cancer Avatar Project; studies genes underlying lung and melanoma metastasis
Pierre-Yves Desprez, Ph.D., leads DNA and RNA sequencing and molecular profiling efforts for the Cancer Avatar Project; shared lead on breast cancer; investigates cancer progression
Mohammed Kashani-Sabet, M.D., leads melanoma and biomarker efforts for the Cancer Avatar Project; develops diagnostic techniques for malignant melanoma
Angela Kim, B.S., supports tissue procurement process with clinical and surgical teams; liaison to tumor boards; consents patients for specimen use in research; collaboration with pathologists and compliance with regulatory mandates
Sean McAllister, Ph.D., leads pharmacologic testing and colorectal cancer efforts for the Cancer Avatar Project; discovered novel cancer chemotherapies for pre-clinical testing
Mehdi Nosrati, Program Manager of the Cancer Avatar Project: Responsible for staff management and program oversight, workflow processes, SOPs, Q/A & Q/C, integration of clinical and molecular research, data management, budget, IRB, HIPAA, EPIC (eHR), compliance, contracts, partnership with internal and external entities, and reports; Kashani Lab Manager
Michael Rowbotham, M.D., CPMCRI Scientific Director, Cancer Avatar Project Lead
Liliana Soroceanu, M.D., Ph.D., oversees animal model development for all tumor types in the Cancer Avatar Project; leading expert in brain glioblastoma research; has direct laboratory experience creating mouse avatars (glioblastoma models)
Des Stone, leads tissue procurement process with clinical and surgical teams; liaison to tumor boards; consents patients for specimen use in research; IRB; collaboration with pathologists and compliance with regulatory mandates
Greg Tranah, Ph.D., oversees gene sequencing, epidemiology, and data analysis for the Cancer Avatar Project; helps lead Sutter’s Precision Medicine research effort; expert in gene sequencing, informatics, and biobanking


Physician Leads

Michael Abel, M.D., Director of CPMC Colorectal Cancer Center of Excellence; clinical PI (colorectal cancer) for the Cancer Avatar Project
John Chan, M.D., Gynecologic Oncology Lead for the Sutter Cancer Research Consortium; clinical PI (ovarian cancer) for the Cancer Avatar Project
Benson Chen, M.D., Lung Cancer and Pulmonary Disease Specialist; clinical PI (lung cancer) for the Cancer Avatar Project
Stephanie Jeske, M.D., SPMF Oncologist; clinical PI (breast cancer) for the Cancer Avatar Project
Robert Osorio, M.D., Department Chief, Transplant Surgery; clinical PI (pancreatic, liver, and biliary cancers) for the Cancer Avatar Project