The University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center is a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. It serves as the hub for cancer research for the University of Minnesota, applying what it learns about the causes, prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer to the care of patients being treated at M Health Fairview, the University of Minnesota’s health system. Patients benefit from the collaboration between Masonic Cancer Center researchers and the multidisciplinary teams that deliver care.
The center emphasizes delivering personalized care for each patient and family, starting with getting to know the patient and understanding how they will best be served by their program. The Masonic Cancer Center is one of only a few centers nationwide to offer CAR T-cell therapy, targeted radiotherapy, and cutting-edge early detection, as well as social work services, cancer rehabilitation, and unique cancer survivorship programs.
Facts about the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center
The University of Minnesota is one of the largest health centers in the nation.
Dr. B.J. Kennedy was a Regents’ Professor at the University of Minnesota and is considered the Father of Medical Oncology.
The world’s first open-heart surgery using cross-circulation was performed at the University of Minnesota.
The world’s first successful bone marrow transplant was performed at the U of M in 1968.
In the year 2000, the University of Minnesota established The Stem Cell Institute, the world’s first interdisciplinary institute dedicated to stem cell research.
The University of Minnesota Medical School was first founded in 1888 as the College of Medicine and Surgery. Since that time, it has become a leader in medical education and research and established a state-of-the-art health facility and National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.
In 1909 the medical school opened the doors of the University Hospitals in an old fraternity house. Patients were offered both inpatient and outpatient care for free. In 1911 the Elliot Memorial Hospital opened as the first hospital facility built at the University of Minnesota. By 1993, the University of Minnesota Health System was created, joining together the Hospital and its various clinics with the University of Minnesota Physicians.
The Masonic Cancer Center was the natural result of the many cancer innovations that came out of the University of Minnesota’s researchers and physicians. In 1968 a UM immunologist performed the world’s first successful bone marrow transplant, and in 1972 the field of Medical Oncology was pioneered by the hospital’s Dr. B. J. Kennedy. In the 1980s, two UM researchers created the first monoclonal antibodies, which are today used in the study of treating leukemia. In 1991, the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents approved the establishment of a cancer center, and by 1993 the center had taken a leading role in the NCI-funded Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, which tracked harmful long-term health effects of cancer and its treatment. In 1998 the University of Minnesota Cancer Center was designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. In 2008, after receiving a $65 million donation from the philanthropic arm of Minnesota Masonry, the University of Minnesota Cancer Center was renamed the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.
Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer Care at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center
The Minnesota Department of Health determined that mesothelioma rates among men living in northeastern Minnesota were higher than expected, raising questions about the relationship between the state’s historic mining industry and the occurrence of the rare, asbestos-related disease. Specific concerns were raised about taconite workers in the Iron Range Community and their families. This resulted in the state’s Department of Health monitoring cancer rates in minoring workers and the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health being tasked with continuing studies of the population. Subsequently, there is a strong focus on the University of Minnesota’s physicians and the Masonic Cancer Center providing state-of-the-art mesothelioma care.
The Masonic Cancer Center’s lung and esophageal translational working group specialists see more than 1,000 patients each year seeking treatment for lung cancers, esophageal cancers, malignant pleural mesothelioma, and other chest-related cancers. The Lung Cancer team offers traditional protocols including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, as well as emerging technologies including immunotherapy. Minnesota Health performed the first lung resection in the 1930s, the first robotic lobectomy in the state, and the first robotic basal segmentectomy in the Midwest. They also provide endoscopic and endobronchial ultrasound for expert staging.
Patients diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma will find that the surgical oncology team at the University of Minnesota pioneered the use of Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC), combining the procedure with cytoreductive surgery procedure to improve patient outcomes. The site was among the first HIPEC programs in the upper Midwest and continues to be a regional and national leader.
The Masonic Cancer Center’s research is divided into six distinct programs: Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention; Cellular Mechanisms; Genetic Mechanisms; Immunology; Screening, Prevention, Etiology, and Cancer Survivorship; and Transplant and Cellular Therapy. Each reflects advances in the understanding of cancer and provides opportunities for interaction with clinical outcomes. The goal is to solve answers to organ-specific and clinical questions, combining scientists with site-specific disease teams from across programs.
Among the center’s notable initiatives are the study of natural killer cells aimed at a variety of cancer targets, research on environmental exposures leading to cancer, and breakthroughs in CAR -T-cell therapy leading to the creation of the Institute for Cell, Gene, and Immunotherapy, which has set an ambitious goal of developing and testing novel cell, gene, and immune-based therapeutics to better treat life-threatening diseases.
Notable Staff and Mesothelioma Specialists
The University of Minnesota and the Masonic Cancer Center are staffed by physicians and researchers who are dedicated to finding better treatments for patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. Among them are Dr. Rafael Andrade, Chief of the Division of Thoracic and Foregut Surgery; Dr. Robert Kratzke, Section Head of Medical Oncology; and Dr. Madhuri Rao, Director of Robotic Thoracic Surgery.