NCI-Designated Cancer Center

How tumors remodel their surroundings to grow

How tumors remodel their surroundings to grow

Targeting the tumor stroma may lead to improved cancer outcomes.

Proteins conspire to make breast cancer cells resistant to drug treatment

Proteins conspire to make breast cancer cells resistant to drug treatment

Breast cancer cells dividing.

Researchers discover new genes that promote brain cancer

Researchers discover new genes that promote brain cancer

Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor in children.

Sanford-Burnham Cancer Center Brochure

Sanford-Burnham Cancer Center Brochure

Click here to download.

About the Cancer Center

Our goal is an increased translational focus on tailoring new cancer therapies to individual patients, thus enabling personalized medicine.

- Garth Powis, Ph.D.

Professor and Director,
Cancer Center

National Cancer InstituteCancer, the second most common cause of death in the U.S., will account for an estimated 1.66 million newly diagnosed cases and 585,720 deaths nationwide in 2014. The Sanford-Burnham Cancer Center, one of only seven National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated basic research cancer centers in the country, is leading the effort to eradicate this disease. To that end, it is striving to make personalized cancer medicine a reality through its exceptional translational research.

What are the goals and activities of the Center?

Founded in 1976 as the La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation, the Cancer Center first received its NCI-designation in 1981. The Center conducts paradigm-shifting, collaborative multidisciplinary basic research into the causes, prevention, and treatment of cancer, leading to new therapies that overcome cancer as a cause of human suffering and disease. Additionally, the Center is committed to educating and training the next generation of cancer scientists.

An area of long-standing and exceptional strength of the Cancer Center is basic science discovery into novel cancer gene targets and their mechanisms. The Center is built around three programs that reflect the cancer continuum of initiation, maintenance, survival, death, and metastasis as well as the contributions of the tumor microenvironment. Investigators advance their discoveries through small-molecule-based drug discovery, an area where we have significant capabilities, into early preclinical therapeutic development.

The Cancer Center is poised to achieve its vision by leveraging its scientific strengths through collaborations with academic and private sector investigators locally, nationally and internationally.

Cancer Research Programs

Scientists in each of the Sanford-Burnham Cancer Center's three programs are interested in the most fundamental questions about cancer: How do tumors arise from normal cells? What happens to cellular communication as cancer develops? How do cancer cells interact with their neighboring tissues? How do cancer cells avoid cell death? Explore each program below to learn more about Sanford-Burnham's approach to cancer.

Shared Resources

Technology supporting the three programs

There are many Cancer Center Shared Resources, some of which consist of multiple specialized facilities. Equipped with advanced technology and staffed by technical experts in each field, these core facilities provide powerful support for the research of Cancer Center investigators. These Shared Resources, complemented by several additional Institute cores, are accessible to all Sanford-Burnham investigators.


Collaboration with San Diego Cancer Centers

San Diego National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers Council (C3)


C3 San Diego’s three National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Centers—Sanford-Burnham, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, and the Salk Institute—are part of a collaboration known as the San Diego National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers Council (C3). This council was formed to facilitate scientific and academic interactions—clinical, translational (from the lab to the clinic), basic-science, and educational—and to leverage each Cancer Center’s distinct strengths, resources, and talents. C3 aims to speed scientific discovery and translation of innovative treatments for cancer patients in San Diego and beyond.




Recent Developments

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About the Cancer Center
Shared NCI Cancer Centers Council (C3) cores at nearby Centers
Cancer Metabolism, Autophagy, & Nutrient Sensing Symposium
Cell Death and Survival Networks
Progress on the Path to Cancer Cures
Tumor Initiation and Maintenance
Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis
Cancer Center Postdoc/Grad Student Retreat - July 30, 2014
Cancer Center Shared Resources
Sanford-Burnham Cancer Metabolism Symposium
Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery