About the Program

The Experimental Therapeutics Program of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center evaluates the next generation of potential cancer drug targets and some of the small molecules that interact with them, while helping move the current generation of potential anti-cancer drugs forward through preclinical and clinical studies.

The Experimental Therapeutics Program aims to develop new, more-effective cancer treatments that have fewer side effects than do standard cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy.

The program conducts research at all three Mayo Clinic campuses — in Phoenix/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:

  • Studying signaling pathways involved in cell survival and proliferation to better define cellular responses to existing anti-cancer treatments and to identify potential new therapeutic targets
  • Clarifying biological, biochemical and pharmacological aspects of the action of new anti-cancer drugs and identifying biochemical and genetic changes that allow tumor cells to resist these agents
  • Identifying genetic and genomic contributions to individual differences in response (efficacy and toxicity) to established and investigational anti-cancer treatments
  • Evaluating the toxicity and activity of selected treatments in early-phase clinical trials, including assessment of the pharmacokinetics, pharmacogenetics, and biological effects of agents in tumor cells in situ, before transitioning these treatments to appropriate disease-specific clinical programs for phase II testing

Early-phase clinical trials

Once novel agents or combinations of agents are developed and tested in the laboratory, the Experimental Therapeutics Program helps translate findings into clinical practice. The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center's Early Cancer Therapeutics Group consists of physicians, nurses, laboratory scientists, research assistants and statisticians who collaborate to perform early clinical testing of novel therapeutic strategies developed at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere.

To evaluate innovative cancer therapies using a team-based approach, the National Cancer Institute created the Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network (ETCTN). The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center is a lead academic organization in the network, participating in a phase I program integrated with a phase II program that allows ETCTN-funded sites the flexibility to expand phase I clinical studies quickly. Experimental Therapeutics Program co-leader Alex A. Adjei, M.D., Ph.D., leads ETCTN studies at Mayo Clinic.

Learn more about early phase clinical trials and the Early Cancer Therapeutics Group at Mayo Clinic.

After initial clinical trials, some treatments go on for more-extensive clinical testing in phase II and phase III trials conducted in other programs within the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center or through cancer cooperative groups.

Learn more about cancer clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

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, Minnesota. Dr. Adjei is also a professor of oncology and of pharmacology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.
  • Dr. Kaufmann, an oncologist, is a professor of medicine and of pharmacology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. 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 professor of pharmacology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Lou's research focuses on the DNA damage response pathway, which is critical for maintaining genomic stability, and on molecular mechanisms of aging.