Michael Masterman-Smith PhD is an American STEM scientist, cancer biologist, pharmacologist and entrepreneur. He is a thought leader in the fields of cancer drug development, cancer stem cells, brain cancer, and single cell analysis biotechnologies. His discovery of cancer stem cells in brain tumors was deemed a high impact discovery by the National Cancer Institute and is now transforming cancer drug development toward finding drugs that can effectively spare healthy cells and kill these deadly ‘tumor-initiating’ cells. His recent run as a healthcare candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in California’s 25th District focused on a plan to reduce healthcare costs, improve access, prevent overmedication and establish a federally-supported cannabis medicine initiative. Currently he is co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of CA Labs, Inc., a pharmaceutical company focused on cancer and other hard-to-treat conditions.
Glioblastoma brain cancer remains a largely untreatable and deadly cancer with median survival of only 12.4 months from diagnosis. These poor outcomes are driven by rare, highly malignant tumor-initiating cancer stem cells (CSCs). Previously, we established a definitive role for cannabinoid receptor agonists as potent inhibitors of glioblastoma CSCs. To further understand the pathway signaling of cannabinoid targets, quantitative single cell analysis was applied to a panel of patient-derived glioblastoma CSCs. Two unique molecularly defined patient signatures were identified, a high malignancy Akt/mTOR activated stem cell signature and a lower malignancy Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) progenitor cell signature responsive to EGFR blocking. Findings support an emerging hierarchical compartment model for glioblastoma CSCs and provide a strategy to identify patients who may respond to targeted cannabinoid therapy for glioblastoma CSCs.