The Gene and Virus Therapy Program of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center uses genes and viruses to attack tumors. Using genes and viruses to fight cancer

Harnessing genes and viruses to infect and kill tumor cells offers a promising step forward in cancer treatment. Our investigators are finding novel ways to manipulate these potent cancer fighters and expand treatment options.


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

Our 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 applications
  • Evaluating the role of cells as carriers in gene-based and virus-based therapeutic approaches to cancer therapy

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

Research advances

The Gene and Virus Therapy Program is advancing numerous discoveries about cancer that can ultimately benefit patient care and outcomes.

Our investigators have pioneered first-in-human testing of different viral platforms that they 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.

Our investigators also successfully completed a phase I clinical trial that tested the 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).

Program leadership

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