The Paradigm Shift

“Our goal is treatment of cancer without surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy – to bypass everything we have done for the last 100 years.”
Dr Swee Tan, Founder and Executive Director, Gillies McIndoe Research Institute


The GMRI’s ground-breaking research in strawberry birthmark has potentially enormous implications for the treatment of other tumours, including cancer.


“Drug manufacturers and cancer research must take note of this new major paradigm shift [resulting from the work of the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute].”
Professor Macaulay AC Onuigbo, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, USA


If the GMRI team can control the stem cells in strawberry birthmark by causing them to ‘commit suicide’, it may be possible to manipulate cancers in a similar way.



The cancer stem cell concept of cancer


Scientists have recently found conclusive evidence of the existence of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in cancer. This is regarded by researchers at Oxford University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden as “a vitally important step” in understanding how cancer develops and how best to treat it.

The cancer stem cell concept proposes that all cancerous tumours comprise two types of cells:

  • Non-CSC cells that form the majority of cells in a cancerous tumour, and which possess little to no self-renewal capacity and will spontaneously die out quickly.
    A small number of highly malignant cancer stem cells (CSCs) that have unlimited self-renewal capacity as well as the ability to generate non-CSC cells.
  • CSCs can resist conventional therapies, which explains why cancers often relapse following conventional treatments and/or enter slow-cycle states where the cancer seems to disappear but subsequently ‘returns’.

The idea that cancer is primarily driven by a very small population of CSCs that remain unaffected by conventional treatments has important implications.

It highlights the need for a treatment paradigm shift such as the one the GMRI is pioneering.

A number of highly regarded experts and organisations in the international community recognise the immense potential of the discoveries of Dr Tan’s team at the GMRI, and their possible application to the treatment of cancer. This line of research is novel and has the potential to revolutionise the understanding and treatment of cancer and other diseases.