Masonic Cancer Center announces appointment of Dr. Kaylee Schwertfeger to a leadership role

Kaylee Schwertfeger, PhD, Professor in the Medical School’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, has been appointed as the Co-Leader of the Cellular Mechanisms program at the Twin Cities’ only National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated comprehensive cancer center.

“Dr. Schwertfeger has been a leader in understanding how the tissue surrounding cancers (tumor micro-environment) influences cancer biology,” noted Douglas Yee, MD, Director of the Masonic Cancer Center. “This area of tumor-tissue interaction has provided a basis for important advances in developing a new understanding of tumor cell behavior and has translated into new strategies for cancer treatment.”

In her role as the Co-Leader of Cellular Mechanisms, Schwertfeger will work to promote areas of cancer research that focus on defining novel cellular mechanisms by which tumor cells and host cells contribute to malignancy, tumor progression, and therapeutic resistance. The goal of these efforts is to exploit these findings to define new biomarkers or develop strategies that limit tumor progression and therapy resistance mechanisms.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to serve as a Co-Leader of this program, which is composed of outstanding investigators that seek to address mechanisms of cancer progression and develop new therapeutic approaches for cancer patients,” said Dr. Schwertfeger. “I look forward to working alongside Dr. Harki and the members of this group to foster collaborative projects within and between programs, and to help facilitate the transition of projects between basic, translational, and clinical cancer research.”

Schwertfeger’s research program is focused on defining key mechanisms by which the tumor microenvironment contributes to breast cancer growth and metastasis. The long-term goal of her work, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, is to develop new approaches for targeting both tumor and host cells in order to enhance therapeutic efficacy for breast cancer patients.

Schwertfeger, who will join Dr. Dan Harki as a Co-Leader, takes over the role of Dr. Carol Lange who was recently announced as the new Associate Director of Basic Sciences at the Masonic Cancer Center. 

Schwertfeger's appointment became effective on October 11, 2021.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Schwertfeger on her new position.

About the Masonic Cancer Center

The Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, is the Twin Cities’ only Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated ‘Outstanding’ by the National Cancer Institute. As Minnesota’s Cancer Center, we have served the entire state for more than 25 years. Our researchers, educators, and care providers have worked to discover the causes, prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer and cancer-related diseases. Learn more at