Discover what’s possible. Browse these features to find out more about the impact of University of Minnesota research, education, and care—and how you can help.
"Mutant variants of human cells": the phrase conjures up images of a bad sci-fi movie. But Reuben Harris, Ph.D., has been studying cell mutations for more than 20 years, and his recent finding is more akin to an Oscar-winning blockbuster. So remarkable is his work that the prestigious journal Nature in February published his discovery that a protein that occurs naturally in the body appears to be a driver for more than half of breast cancers he studied. This breakthrough could lead to new diagnostic tools and, potentially, new treatments for breast cancer.
Across the street, across the state, across the country, and across the world, members of the Masonic Cancer Center are helping people live healthier lives. Not only does the impact of our research stretch across borders and oceans, but some of our leaders are working directly with leaders in other countries to accomplish a myriad of goals — to share knowledge, to exchange ideas, and even to help meet basic needs.
The first time Linda Carson, M.D., visited Baruch Padeh Medical Center in Poriya, Israel, she found a “very barebones” setup. The hospital environment was a reflection of the region in general, says Carson, who is head of the University’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s Health. “People live much more simply,” she says.
The first time pediatric blood and marrow transplant physician Troy Lund, M.D., Ph.D., visited Uganda, he discovered a surprising number of well-funded labs and research initiatives dedicated to infectious diseases like HIV, AIDS, and malaria. But he also saw a severe lack of resources for some of the most significant causes of childhood mortality there: pneumonia, diarrhea, and dehydration.
Michael Verneris, M.D., senses an urgent need every time he looks into the faces of his young patients who have acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the Journey Clinic at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital. "The need to develop new treatments, less toxic and more effective than chemotherapy, is huge," he says, "and I feel that sense of urgency every week when I sit next to a patient and have to explain that the options are slim."
When he gives, Brian Pietsch strives to maximize the impact of his money and accomplish the greatest amount of good possible. And as head of state government relations and community relations for a major corporation, he understands the tremendous power philanthropy has for advancing causes that need funding. So when Pietsch wanted to personally support ovarian cancer research, the physicians and philanthropic leaders he consulted kept pointing him in the same direction: to the University of Minnesota—or as he says, "right in my own backyard."
Cancer was a topic of immediate concern to Roger and Lynn Headrick in the 1990s when John Kersey, M.D., asked them to help fund a new cancer research center at the University of Minnesota. A former executive with Exxon, Pillsbury, and the Minnesota Vikings, Roger Headrick had recently joined the boards of two California biotech companies that were examining the links between genetics and cancer.
It has been more than a decade since evidence first emerged linking diabetes to cancer, and what doctors have learned so far is grim: Diabetics are twice as likely to get cancer of the liver, uterus, and pancreas, and they are 20 to 50 percent more likely to develop colon and breast cancer. Women who have breast cancer are almost 50 percent more likely to die if they also have diabetes.
"There's definitely a proven connection between diabetes and cancer," says David Potter, M.D., Ph.D., a breast cancer physician and member of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota. "But even though we've learned a lot, there's much more work to be done to get us to workable solutions to reduce cancer risk for diabetic patients."
Armed with nothing more than Dixie cups, a few cases of wine, and a battalion of Internet-savvy college kids, a group of Minnetonka-area women have stepped up to take their places in the fight against breast cancer.
"If you're in my age group," says spokesperson Kate Bryant, "you've probably lost friends to breast cancer. We're mad, sad, and frustrated. We don't want any more of our wonderful friends and sisters to die from this disease."
The frustration in his voice is obvious when Fekadu Kassie, D.V.M., Ph.D., explains the problem: "Lung cancer is the most fatal of all malignancies, mainly because it's usually detected after the tumor has spread to other body parts. There are no dependable markers that can be used to detect the disease at early stages."
Kassie's goal? Develop biomarkers for lung cancer and identify effective tools for preventing it.
University of Minnesota orthopaedic surgeon Edward Cheng, M.D., couldn't help but be moved by some of his young patients who survived bone cancer but faced amputation as part of their treatment.
So he asked a couple of them to tell their stories for a video meant to provide hope and support for other kids going through amputations.
Considering that barbershops enjoy a colorful chapter in the history of medicine—barbers routinely performed surgical procedures until the late 1700s—it's fitting that a new project designed to address health disparities in the African American community has gone back into the barbershop.
Clipper Clinics, a preventive health care program run by the Masonic Cancer Center's Kola Okuyemi, M.D., M.P.H., is designed to get to the heart of the problem.
Although Bob Johnson calls himself a “Swede from the East Side of St. Paul,” with a little prodding, you’ll learn that he carries many other titles as well: lawyer, former Minnesota state legislator, war veteran, proud father of six, cancer survivor.
In the late 1990s, Johnson was diagnosed with prostate cancer and sought treatment at the University.
The Masonic Cancer Center invests in novel ideas using a "high-risk, high-gain" approach, says longtime leukemia researcher Tucker LeBien, Ph.D. It's often the most innovative projects that spur new ways of targeting cancer cells or delivering therapies. But because many granting agencies want to invest in a sure thing, securing funding for these "risky" projects can be quite difficult, LeBien says.
Enter the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament, formerly known as the Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament.
Levi Downs Jr., M.D., M.S., knows what most people think when they hear ovarian cancer: imminent death. But, he says, that idea doesn't reflect current reality. "It's true that most women are diagnosed at an advanced stage, and the majority are not going to be cured of their cancer," says Downs, coleader of the Women's Cancer Research Program at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota. "But there's a very dramatic statistic I tell people -- the difference in average survival from the late 1970s to now."
Scott Dehm, Ph.D., has a message for prostate cancer cells: Resistance is futile. Dehm, a Masonic Scholar and assistant professor in the Medical School's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, is exploring genetic changes that allow prostate cancer to become resistant to hormone treatment.
Many families have been affected by cancer in some way. But in the late 1990s, it hit the family of KARE 11 sports anchor Randy Shaver especially hard. Within 11 months, Roseann Giovanatto-Shaver, Randy's wife, was diagnosed with melanoma, Roseann's mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer, and Randy was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin's lymphoma. The Shavers had been raising money for cancer research through a golf tournament for years before this. But after their own experiences with the disease, they began to focus their funding efforts locally.
After a blood and marrow transplant, doctors expect that a donor's cells will take over an ill patient's body and create a new, healthy immune system. But sometimes those donor cells go too far and attack the patient's own tissue, resulting in a miserable and potentially deadly complication called graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). But now, by applying basic science research performed at the University of Minnesota, a Masonic Cancer Center physician-scientist has tested a new cellular therapy that may help to prevent this complication.
The primary reason people give me is that it will help their children and future generations. They also need to get treatment for their cancer, and it may help them. Many people recognize the seriousness of their situation and know that a clinical trial might be the best option. What are some common questions participants ask about clinical trials? “Is it going to work?” They’re nervous about their cancer....
Imagine you'd been diagnosed with high blood pressure and had started taking a medication to control it. At your follow-up appointment, if you hadn't reached your target goal, would your doctor say, "Well, sorry that didn't work out," and send you on your way? Of course not. He or she might adjust the dose, add a medication, or encourage you to lose weight. Masonic Cancer Center researcher Anne Joseph, M.D., M.P.H., has designed a smoking cessation program that takes a similar stepped approach.
Humans and canines may benefit from a recent University of Minnesota discovery that can help predict the aggressiveness of bone cancer.A team led by Jaime Modiano, V.M.D., Ph.D., a College of Veterinary Medicine and Masonic Cancer Center expert in comparative medicine, discovered a gene pattern in dogs that distinguishes a more severe form of bone cancer from a less aggressive type.
University of Minnesota Medical School and Masonic Cancer Center researchers have discovered a method to quickly and exponentially grow regulatory T-cells, dramatically increasing the chances for successful bone marrow and organ transplants.The new technique, developed by Bruce Blazar, M.D., director of the University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and an immunology team, also will have profound implications for patients with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
Ahead of the curve, Medical School alumnus Lee Wattenberg, M.D., first recognized in 1965 that certain chemical compounds improved disease prevention in animals, a discovery that helped launch the field of chemoprevention — and his own illustrious career.A year later, he published a paper in the journal Cancer Research that laid the groundwork for research into chemopreventive compounds and coined the term “chemoprophylaxis” — the prevention of disease by chemical agents.
For several decades, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has given cancer researchers and physicians a sensitive tool to help track down tumors. But University of Minnesota scientists believe there is room for improvement. Now University physicians are working closely with research colleagues at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) to push the capabilities of MRI and explore new ways it could be used in cancer detection, diagnosis, and therapy.
To encourage more minority students to pursue careers in medicine, two Masonic Cancer Center members created an internship program that pairs undergraduate students with professors currently conducting cancer research. Students spend time in the lab learning basic protocols and procedures, and they also design their own research projects.
University of Minnesota researchers have developed a new method for creating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), which can differentiate into many different types of the cells in the body and are used in medical research focused on diabetes, cancer, and many other diseases. This new process will dramatically speed up the creation of iPS cells and improve their quality, which could accelerate the treatment of many otherwise incurable diseases.
When Ron Poole talks about the Institute for Prostate and Urologic Cancers, he can't help but showcase the skills that have made him a successful investment counselor. He's eager to pitch the University of Minnesota center and its mission. But just as he would pick a stock or business venture, he supported the center only after careful research.
Betsy Lucas felt tired. Of course she did—she and her husband, Brian, had 10-month-old Molly and 3-year-old Julia at home. One morning in May 2005, Lucas went to her doctor to have a seemingly harmless rash on her leg checked out. But when the test results came back, the expression on the doctor's face told Lucas it was something serious. Within four days, her diagnosis was confirmed: chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML. “Fear was the first reaction,” says Lucas, who was 34 years old at the time. “I had my whole life ahead of me.”