ASU and Mayo lead 'MAC Attack' to accelerate cancer research

In terms of a medical diagnosis, nothing is more devastating than hearing the "C" word cancer. But now, ASU and Mayo Clinic are hoping that five different C's will become the best arsenal against the big C. The organizations have teamed up to introduce a new research entity called MAC5.

MAC5 is short for the Mayo Clinic ASU Center for Cancer-related Convergence, Cooperation and Collaboration. The new effort will leverage the distinct roles of basic science, technology and clinical medicine to translate discoveries into clinical advances.

"We have been working for the past couple of years with the leaders at Mayo Clinic to build and enhance a relationship between their doctors, who are at the forefront of health care, and ASU's scientists and engineers," said ASU President Michael M. Crow. "We find that the collaborative potential between Mayo and ASU is very high. The openness and intellectual fusion of our educational, scientific, and cultural linkages are at the early stages of what we hope to be a significant and profound relationship to improve health care," Crow said.

"Part of our heritage at Mayo Clinic has been the teamwork demonstrated to bring different disciplines together for the benefit of patients," said Victor Trastek, M.D., CEO of Mayo Clinic in Arizona. "With ASU, we are now just scratching the surface of a great opportunity to work together with scientists, clinicians and patients. This type of collaborative effort is the future in caring for patients and developing the new types of science, devices and therapeutics to advance medicine."

"The alignment in vision and teamwork at the interface between basic science and clinical medicine builds on the complementary strengths of both institutions with a critical goal of bringing value to health care and our patients," said Laurence Miller, M.D., and director for research at Mayo Clinic.

Cancer remains the leading cause of death in the U.S., with over a half-million deaths in 2003. The four most common cancers: lung, breast, prostate and colorectal, together account for 51 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S.

"The goal of this agreement is ambitious: to revolutionize medical practices for cancer-related diseases. We want to shift medicine toward an earlier, preventative, and individualized approach to medical care," said George Poste, director of the Biodesign Institute.

Also assuming leadership roles in creating the center were Keith Frey, M.D., chair of the Information Systems Steering Committee at Mayo Clinic, and Michael Tracy, director of the Center for Cancer Research and Office for Strategy and Research Alliances at the Biodesign Institute.

"Our scientists will work with the Mayo Clinic to provide the patients of Phoenix with the best medicine possible--including superior ways to diagnose and detect diseases earlier, and to treat patients with more sophisticated and effective medicines," said Tracy.

MAC5 represents the largest collaborative effort to date between Mayo Clinic and ASU. It builds on the historical research teamwork of ASU and Mayo Clinic that has grown in recent years to include a pilot research seed grants, joint faculty appointments, and shared educational programs.

The agreement establishes a physical space on Mayo's Scottsdale campus, in the Mayo Clinic Collaborative Research Building. This 110,000 square foot facility will include a new home for MAC5, with approximately 9,000 square feet of space for MAC5 personnel. Several staff members will have joint appoints at Mayo Clinic and ASU. MAC5 will combine the efforts of Mayo Clinic physicians with the capabilities of several ASU programs. This includes the new School of Computing and Informatics and the Department of Biomedical Informatics and Department of Computer Science and Engineering, led by Sethuraman Panchanathan, and three centers at the Biodesign Institute: the Center for Applied NanoBioscience, directed by Frederic Zenhausern; the Center for Cancer Research, directed by Mike Tracy; and the Center for Innovations in Medicine, directed by Stephen A. Johnston.

The building is the first of its kind for Mayo Clinic and adds to the list of multiple strategic partners housed under one roof, including the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). The work supports the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, one of only 38 U.S. medical centers named a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"For physicians with clinical responsibilities, the center's research efforts will no longer separate them from their patients for long periods of time. Rather, the center is designed as a functional interface where Mayo physicians can streamline the infusion of new ideas and research into their primary clinical responsibilities," said Miller.

Mayo physicians will work closely with their MAC5 colleagues to identify clinical research opportunities to address patient needs. This direct interaction with Mayo clinicians and ASU scientists and engineers is designed to help foster interaction and communication to develop new bench to bedside opportunities in discovery.

MAC5 builds on the strong track records core team of experts with strong track records in life science product development. The first occupants will be CLIMDx, the Mayo Clinic research component of the ASU Department of Biomedical Informatics; a cancer vaccine initiative; and a cancer drug development and validation effort linking with the medicinal chemistry group to develop personalized medicine drugs and therapeutics.


Four emergent fields of science are converging to allow for advances in diagnosing and treating cancer. These include biomedical informatics, medical informatics, genomics and proteomics, and miniaturization and integration, often at the nanoscale.

Cancer Vaccines
This program's goal is to identify and validate targets useful to aid in the prevention, diagnosis, localization, staging and treatment of cancer. "By combining clinical expertise in vaccine development from both institutions, our ultimate goal would be to create a universal vaccine, a single prophylactic that can treat all cancers," said Stephen A. Johnston, director of the Center for Innovations in Medicine at the Biodesign Institute.

Cancer Drug Discovery
This facet will serve as the primary pipeline for cancer drug target discovery. "The backbone of our approach is a medicinal and computational chemistry focus that takes full advantage of the burgeoning data sets being generated from genomic and proteomic analyses," said Michael Tracy, director of the Center for Cancer Research and Office for Strategy and Research Alliances at the Biodesign Institute at ASU. "Biomarkers and genetic and protein analysis from the scientist's lab bench to the patient provide a continuous interchange and is essential for developing the most advanced levels of medical treatment and care."

Biomedical Informatics
The goal of this program is to create an integrated informatics foundation for individualized healthcare of the future. The group will be involved in the design of a computational framework that will make possible the goal of personalized medicine. "We will be partnering with Mayo Clinic in leading the efforts towards a digital health care environment through a number of innovations including modeling, simulation and mining of multidimensional data; intelligent analysis and integration of biological and medical information; secure and reliable access to stored medical data; interactive visualization of biomedical information and cognitively inspired design of human computer interfaces," said Sethuraman Panchanathan, interim director of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at ASU.

Mayo Clinic
Laurence Miller, M.D.

Michael Tracy, Ph.D.

Mayo Clinic
Tamara Beamon
[email protected]

Joe Caspermeyer
480-313-2010 (mobile)
[email protected]

Kimberly Ovitt
[email protected]

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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