Basil M. Hantash: Doctor and cancer researcher

To interview Basil Hantash contact the IMEU at 510-451-2600 or

At the Stanford University School of Medicine, Palestinian-American physician-scientist Basil M. Hantash is overseeing a team of researchers working on nothing less than a stem cell-based cure for bloodborne cancers. This cure could be ready for application in humans in as little as 3-5 years.

“We’re creating a universal donor adult stem cell,” says Hantash “and the implications for bloodborne cancer sufferers could be enormous. Patients wouldn’t have to endure lifelong chemotherapy to prevent donor tissue rejection – and they wouldn’t lose their hair, suffer from nausea or internal bleeding, significantly mitigating treatment related side effects. Right now there’s an enormous donor matching problem leading to lengthy waiting lists; often times, patients pass away before finding a match.

Our solution would reduce or eliminate the need to find a match.” “Treatment that used to take months or years could be cut to under a month,” adds Hantash.

Born in Illinois in 1972, Hantash was inspired to pursue medicine after visiting his grandfather in a Palestinian refugee camp. “Shortly after returning to the States I learned he passed away,” he says. “I realized that the medical system in Palestine had been stifled by the Israeli occupation and I wanted to help that system evolve.

“Hantash earned his BS from the University of Illinois and his MD and PhD from New Jersey Medical School. Despite finishing first in his graduate and medical school classes – and becoming the first Palestinian valedictorian – the administration did not invite him to give the speech customarily delivered by the valedictorian at graduation. This bitter experience has only motivated Hantash’s work. “Being Palestinian has significant ramifications on how you can lead your life. It’s fueled my drive to impact the world and to restore the dignity of the Palestinian people,” he says.

Hantash has traveled on two medical missions to Palestine with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. He envisions establishing an entrepreneurship center there. Instead of Palestinians emigrating abroad, Hantash explains, the center “would take advantage of their technical capabilities. It would create opportunities for Palestinians to develop technology that would benefit the world while having a positive impact on the Palestinian economy.

“Hantash recently completed residency and postdoctoral training at Stanford University, where he is currently a specialty fellow in the Biodesign Innovation Program and Instructor in the Division of Plastic Surgery. Along with his current research, he has 16 patents pending and has served as a scientific advisor to half a dozen Silicon Valley companies. He has published nearly 50 articles and abstracts and is also an award winning poet.

Despite his success, Palestine is never far from his mind. “I think that there is an important connection between my medical research and Palestine,” Hantash says. “When people understand the contributions that Palestinians are making and that our goals are to benefit all people, then our rights as Palestinians will be recognized as well.”

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