Hunting Down Brain Tumors

First, Shawn Hingtgen, Ph.D., and his team figured out how to turn a person’s own skin cells into stem cells that hunt down and mop up the remnants of invasive brain tumors. The breakthrough promises a new and more effective treatment for glioblastoma, the most common form of primary brain cancer and also one of the deadliest.

Now, Dr. Hingtgen, an assistant professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, has founded a start-up company called Falcon Therapeutics to ensure that this innovative and life-saving treatment reaches patients.

With the standard treatment for glioblastoma, median survival is less than a year and a half, and the chance of surviving beyond two years is 30 percent. In mouse models, the cancer-hunting stem cells increased time of survival 160 percent to 220 percent, depending on the type of tumor.

“We’ve gone almost 30 years without a significant improvement in care,” said Dr. Hingtgen, whose work was supported by the Eshelman Institute for Innovation. “Glioblastoma patients desperately need something better.”

They may very well get it, thanks to him and his fellow Carolina innovators.

The Eshelman Institute for Innovation is made possible by a $100 million gift from Fred Eshelman to accelerate the creation and development of ideas leading to discoveries and transformative changes in education, research and health care. To learn more about the EII’s impact, visit unceii.org/impact.

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