About the Program

The Gene and Virus Therapy Program of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center focuses on developing new gene-delivery systems and gene-based and virus-based therapies for cancer treatment.

The Gene and Virus Therapy Program has four main research focus areas:

  • Developing novel gene and virus platforms for use in cancer therapy
  • Developing cancer immunotherapies by exploring the immunomodulatory potential of gene-based and virus-based therapeutics
  • Assessing preclinical, clinical, pharmacologic and immunologic properties of vectors used in cancer therapy and optimizing their clinical application
  • Evaluating the role of cells as carriers in gene-based and virus-based therapeutic approaches to cancer therapy

Research initiatives

Researchers in the Gene and Virus Therapy Program have pioneered first-in-human testing of different viral platforms they have developed as oncolytic agents, including measles virus strains encoding the sodium iodide symporter gene, vesicular stomatitis virus strains encoding the human interferon beta and NIS genes, and measles virus strains encoding the TLR-2 agonist neutrophil activating protein.

Program researchers successfully completed a phase I clinical trial testing first-in-human delivery of an oncolytic virus employing mesenchymal stem cells, a strategy intended to protect the virus from neutralization and to optimize tumor homing. Other research successes include novel immunovirotherapy approaches and receiving approval of investigational new drug applications after the launch of clinical trials testing first-in-human intravenous administration of vesicular stomatitis virus strains in patients with endometrial cancer or hematologic malignancies (multiple myeloma, acute myeloid leukemia and T-cell lymphoma).

The Gene and Virus Therapy Program conducts research at all three Mayo Clinic campuses — in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota.

Program leadership

The Gene and Virus Therapy Program is directed by Evanthia Galanis, M.D. Dr. Galanis, an oncologist, is a professor of oncology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Galanis has a particular research interest in developing and optimizing novel virotherapy approaches, with an emphasis on paramyxoviruses.