Minetta C. Liu, M.D., conducts patient-oriented research focused on two major areas: The development of clinically relevant molecular markers to allow for the most accurate prediction of treatment benefit and patient outcomes in solid tumor malignancies, and the development of novel therapeutics to improve survival in early-stage and metastatic breast cancer.
Dr. Liu leads a collaborative effort to optimize and validate platforms for isolating and analyzing circulating tumor cells (CTCs), cell-free DNA (cfDNA), and other blood components. Although her clinical expertise is in breast cancer, her "liquid biopsy" efforts are not restricted to any particular malignancy. Dr. Liu's current work includes the characterization of breast cancer stem cells in the peripheral circulation and the development of assays for the reliable detection of BRAF, EGFR, KRAS and ESR1 mutations to assist in treatment selection and disease monitoring in melanoma, lung cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer, respectively.
Dr. Liu also leads several collaborative multi-institutional clinical trials through such mechanisms as the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology and the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium. The investigational agents explored in these studies have the potential to improve outcomes in all settings of breast cancer for hormone receptor positive breast cancer, HER2-positive breast cancer, and hormone receptor negative breast cancer and HER2-negative breast cancer. This includes a series of phase I trials with oncolytic measles virotherapy as part of the Mayo Clinic Specialized Program of Research Excellence in breast cancer.
- Optimization and validation of blood-based biomarkers for immediate use in directing the care of patients diagnosed with solid tumor malignancies (CTCs, cfDNA)
- Design and conduct investigator-initiated clinical trials to facilitate the development and testing of innovative therapeutic strategies in breast cancer (oncolytic measles virotherapy)
- Development of translational research projects to facilitate a better understanding of the key biologic mediators and signaling pathways in breast cancer (cancer stem cells, drug resistance)
Significance to patient care
In the era of targeted drug therapies, monitoring the tumor genome over time by serial blood sampling will allow clinicians to respond directly to changes in genetic alterations, as opposed to simple clinical or radiographic evaluations, and allow for truly tailored drug selection with the goal of maximizing treatment outcomes. Improving the clinician's ability to monitor treatment benefit will minimize patients' exposure to the toxicity of ineffective therapies and improve survival by guiding the selection of targeted biologic agents with the highest likelihood of efficacy for specific patients at a given time in their disease course.
- Co-chair, Clinical Working Group, Evelyn H. Lauder Founder's Fund AURORA collaboration, 2015-present
- Member, Correlative Sciences Committee, National Cancer Institute's National Clinical Trials Network, 2015-present
- Research chair, Division of Medical Oncology, Mayo Clinic, 2015-present
- Co-chair, Molecular Diagnostic Breast Cancer Disease Oriented Group, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Mayo Clinic, 2014-present
- Chair, Circulating Tumor Cell and cfDNA Working Group, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Mayo Clinic, 2013-present