About the Program

The Neuro-Oncology Program of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center investigates the mechanisms of brain tumor biology and researches prevention and treatment strategies for primary and secondary brain tumors, with a goal of improving survival and quality of life for patients with brain tumors.

The Neuro-Oncology Program focuses on three areas of brain tumor research:

  • Brain tumor biology: Identifying pathogenic and tumor biology factors that lead to brain tumor initiation and progression
  • Biomarkers: Identifying and assessing laboratory and imaging biomarkers to diagnose brain tumors and to determine prognosis and predict response to therapy
  • Novel therapeutic strategies: Developing new interventions that improve response rates and overall survival, reduce symptoms, and improve quality of life

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

Brain tumor research initiatives

Thousands of patients undergoing neurosurgical procedures at Mayo Clinic have consented to contribute biospecimens to Mayo Clinic's neuro-oncology tumor bank. These specimens are available to all faculty members of the Neuro-Oncology Program to help facilitate translational research studies.

In the Proton Beam Therapy Program at Mayo Clinic, radiation oncologists use intensity-modulated proton beam therapy with pencil beam scanning to destroy cancer while sparing healthy tissue. A registry of patients undergoing this highly targeted precision proton beam therapy provides an important population to support research in the Neuro-Oncology Program.

Significant research achievements

Some of the program's most significant research accomplishments include:

  • Seminal contributions toward the discovery of genetic loci associated with brain tumorigenesis
  • Developing and characterizing FDOPA PET imaging as an improved targeting strategy for surgical and radiotherapy planning for gliomas
  • Using patient-derived xenograft models to define predictive biomarkers for response to combination therapies
  • Continued integrated genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of patient-derived xenografts and glioma stem-like cell cultures through the Brain Tumor Patient-Derived Xenograft National Resource

Program leadership

The Neuro-Oncology Program is directed by Joseph C. Loftus, Ph.D.; Steven S. Rosenfeld, M.D., Ph.D.; and Jann N. Sarkaria, M.D.

  • Dr. Loftus is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona. As a researcher, Dr. Loftus studies the role of integrin-mediated adhesion and signaling in the regulation of cell migration and cell growth. His long-term goal is to develop effective therapies for the treatment of glioblastoma, which is the most common form of primary brain tumor.
  • Dr. Rosenfeld, a neurologist, is a professor of neurology and of pharmacology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Dr. Rosenfeld's research focuses on the science of molecular motors, the putative mechanism of glioma cell invasion.
  • Dr. Sarkaria, a radiation oncologist, is a professor of radiation oncology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Sarkaria's research lab, the Translational Neuro-Oncology Laboratory, develops novel therapeutic strategies for people with glioblastoma multiforme and brain metastases.