Director's message: What a year!

Volume 3, Issue 4, 2014


Highlights reflect a year of amazing discoveries at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

Photograph of Robert B. Diasio, M.D., director, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center

Robert B. Diasio, M.D.

As 2014 winds down, we reflect on what a busy and gratifying year it's been at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

Our center received an overall "exceptional" score on the competitive renewal of our National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG), which will provide approximately $28.6 million in funding to help support our 10 research programs and 13 shared resources through 2018.

In March, the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center was elected to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a not-for-profit alliance of leading cancer centers dedicated to improving the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of care for cancer patients.

NCCN membership gives us the opportunity to work with leadership and clinical professionals at other NCCN member institutions to create clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians and other health care decision-makers.

In May, one of our researchers, Stephen J. Russell, M.D., Ph.D., published a proof-of-principle study in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings demonstrating that oncolytic virotherapy — destroying cancer with a virus that infects and kills cancer cells but spares normal tissues — can be effective against multiple myeloma.

Two patients in the multiple myeloma study received a single intravenous dose of an engineered measles virus (MV-NIS) that is selectively toxic to myeloma plasma cells. Both patients responded, showing reduction of both bone marrow cancer and myeloma protein. One patient, a 49-year-old woman, experienced complete remission.

In August, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first multimarker stool-based colorectal cancer screening test, which was co-invented by one of our Cancer Center members, David A. Ahlquist, M.D. The test detects altered DNA and blood released from cancer and precancerous lesions of the colon. It's the first FDA-approved noninvasive DNA-based screening test for colorectal cancer, and it has the potential to revolutionize primary screening for colorectal cancer.

In September, we announced plans with IBM to pilot Watson, the cognitive computer, to match cancer patients more quickly with appropriate clinical trials. While we are working on a proof of concept, we believe Watson can help us develop individualized treatment plans for patients more efficiently and speed the pace of new discoveries.

These highlights represent only a very few of the many examples of important work going on at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. The purpose of all of this work is to provide hope for cancer patients and their loved ones.

Wishing you peace and happiness this holiday season,

Robert B. Diasio, M.D.
Director, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center
William J. and Charles H. Mayo Professor