About the Program

Chemotherapy often represents the best hope for treatment for people whose cancer isn't curable by surgery or radiation. Although chemotherapy is highly effective for some cancers, it's less effective for others.

The goal of the Experimental Therapeutics Program of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center is to help develop new, more-effective cancer treatments to overcome these challenges. In many cases, these new cancer treatments also have fewer side effects than do standard cancer therapies.

As part of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, the Experimental Therapeutics Program conducts research on all three Mayo Clinic campuses: Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota.

The program brings together cancer researchers from a variety of disciplines throughout Mayo Clinic who focus on research in four main areas:

  • Clinical trials of new agents. Early clinical trials assess the efficacy and safety of the next generation of anti-cancer drugs. Findings are eventually translated into clinical practice. Read about the Early Cancer Therapeutics Clinic at Mayo Clinic.
  • Pharmacogenetics. Pharmacogenetics researchers study two aspects of individual variation in response to cancer drugs: drug effects on tumors and adverse drug reactions. Findings help researchers develop treatments tailored to individual patients.
  • Signaling pathways. These are biochemical reactions within cells that contribute to cancer development, cancer cell survival and proliferation. By studying these signaling pathways, investigators hope to better understand what distinguishes cancer cells from normal cells, ultimately leading to the development of new anti-cancer agents.
  • Small molecule inhibitors. These are chemicals that disrupt the signaling pathways implicated in turning normal cells into cancer or contributing to resistance to chemotherapy. Researchers are studying small molecule inhibitors that trigger cancer cell death or make cancer cells more sensitive to existing chemotherapeutic agents.

Program leadership

Co-leaders of the Experimental Therapeutics Program are Alex A. Adjei, M.D., Ph.D.; Scott H. Kaufmann, M.D., Ph.D.; and Zhenkun Lou, Ph.D.

  • Dr. Adjei is an oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Dr. Adjei is also a professor of oncology and of pharmacology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.
  • Dr. Kaufmann is an oncologist who holds several distinguished positions at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and is a professor of medicine and of pharmacology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. Dr. Kaufmann's research lab investigates anti-cancer drugs, with a focus on ovarian cancer and hematological malignancies, including acute leukemias and lymphomas.
  • Dr. Lou is a consultant in the Division of Oncology Research and in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Dr. Lou's research focuses on the DNA damage response pathway, which is critical for maintaining genomic stability.