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Mayo Clinic garners over $60 million in cancer research grants

Dr. Daniel Sargent
Dr. Daniel Sargent

Mayo Clinic researchers have been notified of two grants that total more than $60 million toward cancer research.

Daniel Sargent, the Ralph S. and Beverly E. Caulkins professor of cancer research at Mayo, was awarded $32.7 million by the National Cancer Institute.

The five-year grant, said Sargent, a biostatistician, makes Mayo the Statistics and Data Center for the entire national Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology.The Alliance is a collaboration of research centers across the United States that run clinical trials and test new therapies.

"We have a team of biostatisticians, data managers, IT professionals. This is a testimonial to all of their activities, all of their successes, and it's a great team, so we're very proud of our accomplishments," Sargent said.

Mayo last week was named the top hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and it's celebrating its 150th anniversary.


The second grant, a five-year federal Cancer Center Support Grant of $28.6 million, goes to the Mayo Cancer Center after it got an "exceptional" score for its competitive renewal application.

Ultimately, the grants could improve treatment for cancer patients. For example, Mayo researchers will work to "expand into the area of personalized medicine and genome-guided therapies." The idea is to find the right treatment for individual patients instead of using a standard therapy that every patient with a certain type of cancer gets.

The grants also will trigger and sustain local economic benefits.

The Data Center grant alone, Sargent said, will support 50 to 60 cancer researchers over the five-year period.

"It certainly has allowed for an expansion in our staff," Sargent said.

Mayo's role will be to help design studies, focusing on statistical factors such as the number of patients needed for a study, the right variables to measure and the proper types of patients to participate in the studies.

Patients participating in studies will get treated at their local medical center.

"We have sites in almost every state in the U.S.," Sargent said. The patients are treated on protocols run by the Alliance. Web-based data collection gathers information from clinical researchers across the country


"Data is then sent to us here at the Mayo Clinic," Sargent said. Mayo manages the data, does quality control and analyzes it to determine effectiveness and side effects.

Mayo collaborates with medical doctors from many of the major cancer centers around the country, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York City, Ohio State University and the Dana Farber Cancer Center at Harvard.

"That's just a few of the sites that we collaborate with," Sargent said. "Then we work with those doctors who are the study principal investigators to analyze the data, then write up the data for a manuscript that would then appear in a scientific journal."

Mayo has the only three-site National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the country, with its campuses in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota. The Data Center has staff at the Arizona and Minnesota campuses, and the Cancer Center has staff at all three locations.

The two grants, Sargent said, are "a very nice infusion of resources to enhance our ability to do cancer research here at Mayo Clinic."

He said Mayo's 30-year-plus track record working with a predecessor organization to the Alliance, the strength of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and Mayo's emphasis on quality, safety and excellence likely all contributed to Mayo being chosen for the Data Center Grant.

"Go no further than U.S. News & World Report No. 1 ranking, I think it's our reputation, it's our teamwork, it's our culture that external reviewers and National Cancer Institute appreciate and recognize," Sargent said.

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