The Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota was founded in 1991 as the University of Minnesota Cancer Center and received its NCI designation in 1998, making it the first and only NCI-Designated Cancer Center in the Twin Cities. It was renamed the Masonic Cancer Center in 2008 following a gift from the Minnesota Masonic Charities.
The Masonic Cancer Center creates a collaborative research environment focused on the causes, prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer; applying that knowledge to improve quality of life for patients and survivors; and sharing its discoveries with other scientists, students, professionals, and the community.
The more than 500 physicians and researchers of the Masonic Cancer Center come from three University of Minnesota campuses, 14 colleges, and multiple partner organizations. Clinical research and treatment partners include M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center, Clinics and Surgery Center, and Masonic Children's Hospital.
The Masonic Cancer Center also leads the Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network (MNCCTN), a state-funded initiative that, in collaboration with local health care organizations, brings cutting-edge cancer clinical trials in prevention and treatment to rural communities and improves cancer outcomes across the state. With a catchment area covering the entire state of Minnesota, the Masonic Cancer Center and MNCCTN have created a network to bring the most advanced research efforts from bench to bedside throughout the state.
The Masonic Cancer Center also reaches all four corners of Minnesota through the Community Outreach and Engagement (COE) program. The mission of this program is to reduce the burden of cancer in Minnesota by engaging communities and providing them access to knowledge and information about cancer prevention, treatment, survivorship, and clinical research opportunities. COE also provides hands-on educational internship opportunities designed to give undergraduate students from Minnesota's racial/ethnic minority and underrepresented communities experience conducting cancer health disparities research.
Research at the Masonic Cancer Center
The Masonic Cancer Center has six mechanistic research programs: Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention; Cellular Mechanisms; Genetic Mechanisms; Immunology; Screening, Prevention, Etiology, and Cancer Survivorship; and Transplant and Cellular Therapy.
Research is organized around scientific themes that reflect advances in cancer research and provide opportunities for interactions with scientists from different disciplines across the cancer community to discover processes that affect cancer. We solve organ-specific and clinical questions by convening site-specific disease teams that draw researchers from across the programs.
Select Scientific Initiatives at the Masonic Cancer Center
The Masonic Cancer Center has decades of expertise studying natural killer (NK) cells, creating trispecific killer engager molecules (TriKE), and manufacturing biotherapeutic products at the Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory. Researchers have conducted multiple clinical trials of off-the-shelf TriKE therapies aimed at a variety of cancer targets.
The Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program at the Masonic Cancer Center is internationally recognized for research in tobacco dependence, the health effects of tobacco product use, and environmental exposure analysis. The researchers’ national clinical trial identified that low-nicotine cigarettes may help smokers quit, and we have worked with state and local policymakers to change the tobacco purchasing age to 21, as well as contributed to the Freedom to Breathe legislation. With compelling evidence on the link between indoor tanning bed use and melanoma from Masonic Cancer Center researchers, the Minnesota Legislature passed legislation prohibiting minors from using indoor tanning beds. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia have used this research to prohibit the use of tanning facilities by minors.
Transplantation and Cellular Therapy
With a 50-year legacy in blood and marrow transplantation, including the world’s first successful human bone marrow transplant using an HLA-matched sibling donor, researchers continue to pioneer and perfect new cellular breakthroughs in CAR T-cell therapy and NK cell therapy. These scientific and medical advancements led to the creation of the Institute for Cell, Gene, and Immunotherapy, which aims to accelerate the development and testing of novel cell, gene, and immune-based therapeutics that hold promise in the treatment of life-threatening diseases.
* This profile was provided by the Masonic Cancer Center.