Translational Working Groups


What is a Translational Working Group?

The Translational Working Groups (TWGs) are a mechanism to foster interprogrammatic and translational research to promote new discoveries. TWGs organize MCC members from various research programs into groups designed to address site-specific cancers, foster collaborations, and provide the necessary scientific and clinical expertise to improve outcomes for the specific disease sites.

What does a TWG do?

  • Focuses on one type, or a group of closely related types, of cancer
  • Applies the scientific findings of our programs to specific types of cancer
  • Enhances interactions between MCC members to address disease-specific questions
  • Provides the structure to allow MCC investigators opportunities to interact and discuss specific clinical problems and priorities, which can lead to novel approaches to cancer prevention or treatment, and to identifying potential areas of collaboration
  • Catalyzes new multi-investigator, multidisciplinary preclinical and clinical translational research
  • Communicates with University of Minnesota Foundation development officers and craft literature describing efforts in research area
  • Advises the MCC director and executive committee on spending philanthropic funds designated for a TWG site-specific cancer
  • Advises program leaders and members on clinical resources for research in TWG cancer types
  • Provides a “front door” for philanthropists and community members interested in site-specific cancers

Creating new Translational Working Groups

An investigator interested in creating a new translational working group can submit an application via the online application form. Submitted applications will be reviewed by the Masonic Cancer Center Executive Committee for approval.
For questions or concerns regarding TWG groups or the application process, please contact the TWG Administrator, Eric Zhang, at or 612-624-0458.

Our Translational Working Groups

Brain Tumor Program TWG

Brain Tumor Program TWG

Brain cancer that originates in the tissue of the brain is called primary brain cancer. Cancer that begins elsewhere in the body and spreads to the brain is known as metastatic or secondary brain cancer. Metastatic brain tumors are the most common brain tumors. Our neuro-oncology specialists treat patients with a broad spectrum of noncancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) tumors of the brain and nervous system. The Brain Tumor TWG team brings together experts from basic science, to clinical research, to translational research, and to the patient to create truly comprehensive care.

The Brain Tumor TWG has a monthly executive meeting, which occurs every second Thursday from 7:45-8:45 a.m. in CCRB 3-124.

Additionally, we host a monthly data club (a combination journal club and opportunity for people to present their own research), which is open to anyone interested in brain tumor research. This Brain Tumor Program Data Club occurs every second Thursday from 9-10 a.m. in CCRB 3-150.

Next Meeting: May 11, 2017

NF2 Phenotype
Chris Moertel, MD, Professor, Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology

Administrative Contact: Rebecca Godar - - 612-626-0369

Leader: David Largaespada, Ph.D.

Read more about the Brain Tumor Program.

Breast Cancer TWG

Breast Cancer TWG

Breast cancer forms in the tissue of the breasts, usually in the tubes that carry milk to the nipple (ducts) or the glands that produce milk (lobules). Each cancer behaves differently, and accurately identifying the cancer is essential to effective treatment. The Breast Cancer TWG takes an innovative approach to care, participating in clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of cancer, as well as testing the effectiveness of hormone-blocking or dietary interventions.

Meetings take place on the fouth Friday of each month, 8-9 a.m., Benson Room, C456 Mayo. 

Administrative Contact: Jean Jacoby – – 612-626-5475

Leader: Douglas Yee, M.D.

Cutaneous Oncology TWG

Cutaneous Oncology TWG

Our vision is to reduce and eventually eliminate the burden of cancers arising in the skin. Through interdisciplinary collaboration among our basic, clinical and population scientists at the University of Minnesota and Masonic Cancer Center, we will create an outstanding cutaneous oncology translational research program to conduct state-of-the-art scientific research resulting in the prevention, early detection, treatment, and enhancement of survivorship of children and adults with these cancers.

Meetings take place on the second Thursday of the month, 11:30 - 12:30, PWB 8-335.

Administrative Contact: Jane Boyer - - 612-626-4454

Leaders: DeAnn Lazovich, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Heather Nelson, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Prostate and Urologic Cancer TWG

Prostate and Urologic Cancer TWG

Genitourinary cancers include a variety of cancers that are found in the male and female urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys and ureters. They are also found in the male reproductive organs, including the prostate, testicles and penis. The Genitourinary Tumors Translational Working Group has served as leaders in genitourinary cancer diagnosis and treatment for many years. Our program pioneered endoscopic urology using percutaneous approaches to biopsy masses in the kidney. In addition, the prostate-specific antigen test was first validated at the University of Minnesota as a marker for prostate cancer.

Meetings are the second Tuesday of each month, 8-9 a.m., in the Urology conference room, B564 Mayo.

Next Meeting: May 9, 2017

Nano-immunotherapy for bladder cancer
Thomas Griffith, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Urology, University of Minnesota

Administrative Contact: Liz Mayock – – 612-625-7486

Leader: Scott Dehm, Ph.D.

Gynecologic Cancers TWG

Gynecologic Cancers TWG

Gynecologic cancers are cancers that occur in the female reproductive organs, including the following: vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tube, ovary, and primary peritoneal cancer. As one of the largest gynecologic cancer services in the Midwest, we provide comprehensive care and access to the latest in research, as well as new approaches to treating gynecologic cancers. We were named a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health by the Office of Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Administrative Contact: Kit Brown –, 612-624-9904

Leader: Melissa Geller, M.D.

Heme Malignancy TWG

Heme Malignancy TWG

Heme Malignancies are cancers that affect the body's bone marrow, blood cells, lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system. They’re also known as blood cancers. Blood cancers are typically classified into four categories: Leukemia, Lymphoma (Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma), Myeloma, and Myelodysplastic syndromes. We have an internationally recognized team of blood cancer experts known for their expertise in treating all forms of blood cancer.

Administrative Contact: Kris Blomquist, 625-8942,

Leader: Veronika Bachanova, M.D., Ph.D

Heme Malignancy Tissue Bank

Request for Samples – for researchers requesting samples from the tissue bank

Heme Malignancy Tissue Bank samples are available to any member of the UMN research community.  Preference is given to Masonic Cancer Center members.  Release of samples will be approved after a peer-review process.  Prior to request investigators should demonstrate that methods and approaches are established in their laboratory or that such studies cannot be performed with cell lines.  Typically small numbers of samples will be initially released so that investigators can demonstrate that the samples are useful to their research.  
Two steps must be completed before sample release:

Each researcher must obtain IRB approval (IRB Category 4: Exempt from Committee Review) for the use of specimens in their specific research projects. Samples released to researchers will be labeled only with the unique patient identifier; there will be no link to personal identifiers. De-identified clinical information (such as diagnosis, cytogenetics or translocation, percentage blasts, age, sex, etc.) may be provided by the Pediatric Leukemia Coordinator or approved clinical research staff.

Grant & Publication Information

Grant Submission Information:
PI: Veronika Bachanova, MD, PhD
IRB #: 0611M96846

Publication Acknowledgement:
The Heme Malignancy Tissue Bank (HMTB) receives support from the National Cancer Institute, Minnesota Masonic Charities and the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial fund through the Cancer Experimental Therapeutics Initiative (CETI). PIs using samples from the HMTB should acknowledge this support in any publications and presentations: “This work was supported in part by NCI 5P30CA077598-18, Minnesota Masonic Charities and the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial Fund.”

Contact Information

PI and Adult Patients:
Veronika Bachanova, MD, PhD
Phone: 612-625-5469
Pager: 612-899-1200

Pediatric Patients:
Peter Gordon, MD
Phone: 612-625-0711

Request for Samples:

Sarcoma TWG

Sarcoma TWG

Sarcoma cancers, also known as musculoskeletal or bone and soft tissue cancers, develop in the body’s connective tissue, such as: fat, blood vessels, nerves, bones, muscles, tendons, and cartilage. A multidisciplinary team works with patients to develop a customized treatment plan. We are continually improving treatment for patients with bone and soft tissue cancers through laboratory work, clinical research and education.

Administrative Contact: Rick Jacobson – – 612-626-5501

Leader: Brenda Weigel, M.D., M.Sc

Thoracic TWG

Thoracic TWG

Thoracic cancers include cancers of the lungs, bronchial tubes, and esophagus. Our lung and esophageal cancer specialists are experts in treating lung cancer and all chest-related cancers. Patients with lung and esophageal cancers often have complex medical needs and require comprehensive therapies. Our lung and esophageal cancer specialists see more than 1,000 patients each year and work with them to develop a customized treatment plan.

Meetings take place the second Monday of each month, 2-3 p.m. in 656 MCRB.

Administrative Contact: Eric Zhang,, 612-625-0458

Leader: Jill Siegfried, Ph.D.

Gastrointestinal TWG

Gastrointestinal TWG

Developing TWG

Head and Neck Cancer TWG

Head and Neck Cancer TWG

Developing TWG