University of Minnesota
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Giving to medicine and health at the University of Minnesota

October 2010 Archives

Oncologist Tufia Haddad, M.D., says real-time MRI monitoring and data analysis through the I-SPY2 clinical trial will help to determine which new drugs are most beneficial for breast cancer patients. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

A leading-edge breast cancer clinical trial starting in September at the University of Minnesota is designed to test new targeted therapies—and it has researchers and patients alike excited about the possibilities.

Gail Hudson was the first patient to enroll in the I-SPY1 clinical trial.

June 9, 2009, is a day Gail Hudson remembers clearly. It’s the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Almost immediately following that diagnosis, Hudson started researching her treatment options. She found that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends centers that emphasize investigator-initiated, research-based clinical care—and that the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, is one of two NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the state.

David Largaespada, Ph.D., and his lab team have identified more than 100 genes linked to cancer. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

A tool called "Sleeping Beauty" is helping Masonic Cancer Center geneticist David Largaespada, Ph.D., and his lab team find more and more genes linked to cancer. But Largaespada believes the real fairy-tale ending will come later, when cancer is considered a largely solved problem.

After completing a portion of her research through a Cancer Biology Training Grant at the University, scientist Mariangellys Rodriguez landed a sought-after fellowship through the National Institutes of Health. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

As a third-year graduate student in cancer biology at the University of Minnesota, Mariangellys Rodriguez set her sights on a short-term goal. She'd heard about the Cancer Biology Training Grant, a means to acquire two to three years of research funding, and she realized that getting the grant would be an important step toward her future. "I applied as soon as the application was available," she says.

Stephen Hecht, Ph.D.

Tobacco researchers at the Masonic Cancer Center led by Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., will conduct a five-year study on why African Americans and Native Hawaiians are more susceptible to getting lung cancer from cigarette smoking than other ethnic groups. This study—a collaborative effort of the University of Minnesota, University of Southern California, and the University of Hawaii—is funded with a new $10.7 million program project research grant (see sidebar) from the National Cancer Institute.

Thumbnail image for Cindy Martin, M.D., and James Moller, M.D., see patients together at the University’s new Adult Congenital and Cardiovascular Genetics Clinic. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Under the mantle of the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic in June committed to a formal research relationship with the Karolinska Institute of Stockholm, Sweden. Karolinska is the top-rated medical research university in Europe. The partnership aims to accelerate and build on the existing relationships among the three institutions.

Selwyn Vickers, M.D.

The University of Minnesota has been awarded jointly with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Comprehensive Cancer Center one of the National Cancer Institute’s most coveted cancer research grants. The five-year, $11.5 million Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant aims to give the two cancer centers the means to achieve breakthrough research discoveries to better understand, diagnose, and treat pancreatic cancer, a deadly disease with a poor prognosis.

Biomedical Discovery District (Image courtesy of Architectural Alliance)

As University of Minnesota leaders continue to refine the design plans for a new Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Complex in the institution’s burgeoning Biomedical Discovery District, investigators are eager to take advantage of the building’s many benefits.

The new facility is expected to house 24 lead cancer researchers plus their staffs. Among those researchers is David Largaespada, Ph.D., who oversees the Masonic Cancer Center’s Genetic Mechanisms of Cancer Research Program.


Children’s Cancer Research Fund (CCRF) has teamed up with the Minnesota Medical Foundation (MMF) to help find a cure for pediatric cancers and other childhood diseases faster by pooling their efforts. CCRF and MMF—which raises money for health-related research, education, and care at the University of Minnesota— have worked together publicly and privately for nearly 30 years to combat pediatric cancer. Since 1981, the grassroots efforts led by CCRF have resulted in more than $60 million being donated to the University for its leadingedge pediatric cancer research.

Ruth Bachman, who publicly shares her personal story of triumph over cancer, donates her speaking fees to the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota and to the Center for Spirituality and Healing.

Ruth Bachman had never been afraid of public speaking. In her roles as educator, travel guide, and volunteer coordinator, she'd spoken to dozens of groups and organizations.

But her speech before a University of Minnesota audience in 2004 differed from any she'd given in the past. This time, she was telling her personal story — about how she lost her left hand and how the experience changed her.

Thumbnail image for Minnesota Masonic Charities president and CEO Eric Neetenbeek and Masonic Cancer Center director Douglas Yee, M.D., were in high spirits at the April 10 press conference announcing the gift.

Technological advances are allowing easier access to genetic data than ever before. And it’s hard for analysts to keep up. Whereas mapping the first human genome took more than 10 years and $1.5 billion to complete, today it can be done in a month for about $20,000, says the Masonic Cancer Center’s Brian Van Ness, Ph.D. And that technology is racing ahead.

Thumbnail image for Medical School alumni Michael Armstrong, M.D., Barbara Sigford, M.D., Ph.D., and Larisa Kusar, M.D., collaborate on rehabilitation plans for soldiers with multiple injuries in the Polytrauma Center at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs M

“Nobody gets to be a cowboy here,” says one facial reconstructive surgeon in the Department of Otolaryngology. Helping people live with dignity and perform the most basic of functions, like swallowing, smiling, or talking, demands that you rely on those around you to support and complete your work. Peter Hilger, M.D., does complex facial reanimation surgeries to give people the ability to communicate, to express emotions, to be part of the world again. But he knows that he can’t do this alone.


Since Congress launched the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 1997, the number of uninsured children in this country has declined by more than 20 percent, according to a new study from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC).

Thumbnail image for University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital is one of three buildings in the country to use these distinctive metal panels that reflect blue, green, purple, maroon, or gold, depending on how the sunlight hits them.

University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital has one of the nation’s top 15 pediatric research programs. Partnering with the University’s Medical School and Department of Pediatrics, the hospital has been a part of numerous medical breakthroughs.

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