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Clinical Connections: On Cancer Innovation

On Cancer Innovation


Our Masonic Cancer Center (MCC) epitomizes the kind of stellar research that occurs when innovative scientific advances are linked to discovering solutions to challenging clinical problems. Innovation is catalyzed by the collaboration between MCC scientists and clinicians. For patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), this research has resulted in a new immunotherapy being tested for the first time in human patients—tri-specific natural killer engagers or TriKE™.
TriKE stands on the shoulders of giants.
Douglas YeeJust this year, the Lasker prize recognized Max Cooper and Jacques Miller for their discovery of two distinct types of lymphocytes, now called T and B cells. Max Cooper’s work on this took place in the 1960s right here in the lab of Bob Good, who was a pioneer of treating leukemias with bone marrow transplant. The study of lymphocytes would eventually identify a third type, the Natural Killer or NK cells, so named because of their role in killing virally infected cells and tumor cells.
In the land of 10,000 lakes, it is no surprise that the state turned to its land-grant institution for help in genetically engineering faster-growing fish. What was a surprise was Perry Hackett’s discovery of a new transposable genetic element (transposons) in salmon DNA. The discovery of “Sleeping Beauty” transposons in mammalian genomes was widely shared, and other researchers at the MCC began applying the new cellular reprogramming tool to alter immune cells to seek and destroy cancer viruses, discover new cancer causing genes, and modify the genome.
No one thought fish would be the missing link to turning on cellular switches to fight cancer. But there it is.  TriKE’s development came from cellular biologists, virologists, immunologists, physicians, geneticists, radiation oncologists, and others. It took scientific curiosity and the ability to quickly adapt discoveries from one area to another. It took friendly competition. It took the physical proximity that allows conversations in the halls. It took a person who studies Natural Killer cells also treating patients in the clinic and exchanging ideas with other clinicians and scientists. It took people committed to reinventing the future and working together to do so.
The MCC is a fantastic example of what we can do in Academic Clinical Affairs and the University at large for the benefit of anyone, anywhere. Now more than ever, you never know where the next important insight for your work will come from.

Douglas Yee, MD
Director of Masonic Cancer Center

Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD
VP for Clinical Affairs



01  President Gabel and a Healthy Minnesota

Healthy Minnesota DayPresident Joan Gabel’s initiatives aim to strengthen research, education, and service to lift our state’s communities and ensure that our land-grant university stands as a beacon of inclusion, preparing students for lives well-lived. As part of Inauguration week, OACA centers and institutes participated in Healthy Minnesota Day on Sept. 18. President Gabel toured the upcoming Health Sciences Education Center and visited with CUHCC, CTSI, CGHSR, and MCC at the farmer’s market to learn more about health outcomes, community engagement, care, education and outreach.

Where can I see more?
Student mental health is a priority for our new president. Watch the panel she attended moderated by MPR’s Stephanie Curtis.

02  Expanding Access to Cancer Clinical Trials

Clinical TrialsMay 1-July 31, 2019 was another great quarter for Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network (MNCCTN) sites:

  • 90 participants were enrolled in trials. That puts the total enrollment at 317.
  • 106 participants have been enrolled to MNCCTN trials, the remaining 211 have been enrolled to NCORP or other trials.
  • Two new sites began enrollment. Fourteen sites have now accrued patients, and 15 are open to enrollment.

How does MNCCTN impact the state?
Many community clinics do not have the resources to establish the necessary infrastructure to conduct clinical trials. By bringing cancer clinical trials directly to those living in Greater Minnesota, MNCCTN breaks down barriers of distance, cost, and time. Led by the Masonic Cancer Center, MNCCTN brings together health care organizations across the state. The network aims to improve cancer outcomes for all Minnesotans through greater access to cancer clinical trials in prevention and treatment.

03  New Interprofessional Approach to Child and Adolescent Brain Health

Brain HealthThe Board of Regents has reviewed the proposal to purchase Shriners Hospitals on East River Parkway as the site for the new Institute for Child and Adolescent Brain Health. The institute would focus its work on brain development at two critical developmental stages, the first 1,000 days of life and adolescence. The interdisciplinary institute will be part of the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs.

What does this mean for the University?
The first-of-its-kind institute would focus on clinical research, clinical services for children and families, and policy/outreach, resulting in better diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders in childhood and adolescence, including autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, and depression.

“The institute is poised to serve as a national model of excellence for child and adolescent brain health, while also expanding our ability to treat more people throughout our state and region. The University has an unprecedented opportunity to bring the institute together in this existing facility that can be rapidly up and running,” said VP Jakub Tolar.

04  A Partnership with the United Nations

care provider and patientThe Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility partners with the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM) to build capacity to perform health screening and health assessments for U.S.-bound refugees. Around the world, IOM physicians, nurses, laboratorians and other health care professionals are relied upon to screen and assess US-bound refugees.

How does this project impact refugees?
This project ensures that these health care workers receive the training necessary to understand the unique needs of displaced patients. Better care improves health, reduces costs for welcoming countries, decreases risk of transmissible infections, and improves refugee integration into local communities.

 05  Honoring a Lifetime of Dedication

Carolyn PortaAVP Carolyn Porta received the 2019 Ann Burgess Forensic Nursing Research Award at the International Conference on Forensic Nursing and Science and Practice in New Orleans. Porta has both clinical and research expertise in forensic nursing, with over 20 years of experience as a sexual assault nurse examiner. She also serves on the research subcommittee for the President's Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct and works to address sexual violence prevention at the University.

What is the Ann Burgess Forensic Nursing Research Award?
This award honors an individual who has made exceptional research contributions to the field of forensic nursing through clinical program development, scientific achievement, legislative changes or educational activities. Fun fact: Ann Burgess helped the FBI develop psychological profiling for serial killers, and is represented by the female lead character in the Netflix series, Mindhunter.

 06  Where Medical Met Industry

Convene Conference GroupThe Convene Conference, hosted by the Carlson School of Management’s Medical Industry Leadership Institute, brought together health care providers, industry and academic experts to share their unique perspectives on trends, opportunities, and challenges in health care. VP Jakub Tolar moderated the panel session, “Walking the Tightrope: Balancing the Clinical and Financial ROI of AI” discussing Artificial Intelligence, patient outcomes and the social determinants of health.

How does this impact healthcare?
The conference focused on leveraging the intersection of health care and data analytics and building a sustainable bridge to the future. It demonstrates the long standing history between the medical industry and business education and research.

 07  BOLD Idea: Innovative Supportive Housing

Housing“The Community-University Health Care Center is in the heart of the Phillips neighborhood, a historic port of entry for immigrants and refugees and as an urban American Indian cultural corridor,” says CEO Colleen McDonald Diouf. “Last year, Minnesota experienced one of the most visible collisions of homelessness, mental illness, and opioid use disorder in CUHCC's literal backyard— the Hiawatha encampment.” As one of the six studies recently funded with a BOLD Ideas grant, CUHCC proposes convening community partners, influencers and community members/patients with lived experiences, to create tangible action-oriented goals that will break down housing and addiction policy barriers, improve service/care delivery, design optimal healing spaces, and strengthen existing partnerships and form new connections.

How can I learn more?
Take a look at how CUHCC is addressing complex issues in the community.

 Funding and Leadership Opportunity Deadlines

Oct. 2 - Community-University Partnership Grant Program LOI
Oct. 8 - Community Health Collaborative Pilot Grants LOI
Oct. 15 - Academies for Excellence faculty nominations due
Oct. 15 - Faculty Travel awards
Oct. 15 - Karen Wycoff Rein in Sarcoma Foundation RFA
Oct. 23 - Case Competition Information Session
Oct. 25 - Campus Climate micro-grants
Oct. 25 - MDH Health Equity Advisory and Leadership Council - See application
Nov. 1 - Fogarty Global Health Fellowship
Nov. 4 - Regenerative Medicine Minnesota
Nov. 20 - Faculty Planning Grant Program Proposal


Sept. 25 - Dr. Michael Thomas Special Seminar
Sept. 26 - David A. Rothenberger Lecture Series
Sept. 26 - Inter-Professional Dean’s Seminar: Medication Reconciliation/ Informatics Update
Sept. 26-27 - 'Wisc-e-sota' Collaborative UMN-UW Training Grant Symposium
Oct. 1 - Health Informatics Invited Speaker Series: Dr. Mei-Hua Hall
Oct. 7 - Women’s Health Research Conference
Oct. 7 - Dr. James Gordon Lecture
Oct. 8 - Dr. Dmitry Shayakhmetov Special Seminar
Oct. 9-11 - Cancer Center Community Impact Forum
Oct. 21 - Leading with Purpose Conference
Nov. 2 - 2nd Annual Health Care Ethics Conference on End of Life care
Nov. 8 - Earl E. Bakken Surgical Device Symposium
Nov. 18 - Quie & Peterson Global Health Lecture
Nov. 18-19 - CTSI and CMRR Imaging Conference "Toward the Clinical Translation of Ultra-High Field MRI"

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