Rochester, Minnesota




In his Membrane Trafficking in Disease Lab, Mark A. McNiven, Ph.D., conducts research focused on the liver and the pancreas, as the cells of these organs are susceptible to becoming deadly cancers.

His research investigates how cytoskeletal and membrane dynamics support basic cellular functions during healthy and disease states. Dr. McNiven strives to understand how liver and pancreas cells synthesize, transport, signal and degrade growth factor receptors that are essential to tumor growth and migration.

Cancerous tumors in the liver or pancreas can aggressively spread out of the organ of origin to invade peripheral tissues. This spread is known as metastasis. Understanding and attempting to decrease metastasis is a central directive of Dr. McNiven's research.

Additionally, since the liver serves as a central storage site for fat, it can become excessively fatty. This is known as a steatotic liver, which can lead to hepatitis or cancer. Dr. McNiven studies how liver cells store and use excess fat and how damage caused by factors such as alcohol can lead to fatty liver disease.

Focus areas

  • Metastatic invasion of tumors into peripheral tissues.
  • Cell functions, including cell migration, invasion and metastasis.
  • Cellular membrane and cytoskeletal interactions as they relate to cancer metastasis.
  • Storage and utilization of fats and lipids in the liver.
  • Cellular resistance to viral infection.
  • Pathways in liver function, physiology and disease.
  • Vesicle formation during endocytosis and secretion.

Significance to patient care

A better understanding of cellular mechanisms and metabolic functions can lead to better treatment outcomes for fatty liver disease, hepatitis B, and pancreatic and hepatic cancers by inhibiting tumor growth and metastasis, pathogenic infection, receptor signaling, and growth cascades.

Professional highlights

  • Director, Center for Biomedical Discovery, Mayo Clinic, 2014-present.
  • Program leader, Gastrointestinal Cancer Program, Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, 2010-present.
  • George M. Eisenberg Professor, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 2015.
  • Chair, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mayo Clinic, 2002-2013.
  • Program leader, Cell Biology Program, Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, 2000-2010.
  • Recipient, MERIT Award, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2007.
  • Chair, Cancer Cell Biology and Metastasis Peer Review Committee, American Cancer Society, 2005-2006.


Primary Appointment

  1. Consultant, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine

Joint Appointment

  1. Consultant, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Academic Rank

  1. Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


  1. Post-Doc - Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy; Research Fellow The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  2. Post-Doc - Department of Biology; Research Associate University Of Maryland, Baltimore County
  3. PhD - Department of Biological Sciences University Of Maryland, Baltimore County
  4. Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; part-time graduate student University of Colorado at Boulder
  5. BS - Biology State University of New York College at Geneseo

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