"To build a premier virus, gene, and cell therapy program and to translate promising therapeutics from bench to bedside in a timely manner."
Translational research in the Department of Molecular Medicine
In mid-July, 2009, Eva Galanis, M.D., a professor of oncology, became the second person to lead the Department of Molecular Medicine. Dr. Galanis succeeds Stephen Russell, M.D., Ph.D., who came to Mayo Clinic from Cambridge University in 1998 to establish the Gene and Virus Therapy Program, which eventually led to the Gene and Virus Therapy Ph.D. track at Mayo Graduate School, and the creation of the Department of Molecular Medicine.
Harnessing viruses to treat cancer
Mayo Clinic is targeting cancer on the molecular level - by changing the genetic makeup of diseased cells. Gene therapy changes the DNA of cancer cells so that they die, while virus therapy uses the destructive power of viruses to kill cancer cells. "Viruses are professional gene delivery vehicles," said Dr. Stephen Russell, leader of the Gene and Virus Therapy Program of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. "We're now able to harness that."
A landmark in gene therapy and virotherapy trials
A significant landmark for the Molecular Medicine Department was July 12, 2004, when a patient with ovarian cancer received an intraperitoneal infusion of a recombinant measles virus that was designed, constructed, preclinically tested, and manufactured by gene therapy investigators at Mayo Clinic. This is the first time that a genetically engineered measles virus has ever been tested in human subjects.