Masonic Cancer Center Clinical Trials

As one of only 51 NCI-Designated comprehensive cancer centers throughout the United States, the Masonic Cancer Center, University Minnesota’s mission is to serve the people of Minnesota and to put our energy and skills towards ending the problem of cancer. Research-based discovery and clinical trials to advance care for patients with cancer is a critical part of our mission.

Some clinical trials are designed for patients who have exhausted standard of care options, while others evaluate new drugs or new drug combinations in patients who are earlier in their cancer treatment. A subset of these earlier clinical trials are intended to test new treatment strategies for patients that have been recently diagnosed with cancer for the first time. In these “first-line” trials, early referral is essential to screening and consideration for enrollment. 

“One of the mandates of our Cancer Center is to provide a breadth of clinical trials that bring innovative and cutting edge treatments to the people of Minnesota,” notes Emil Lou, MD, PhD, FACP, Associate Professor and Medical Director of the Masonic Cancer Center’s Clinical Trials Office-Solid Tumor Unit. “Providing equitable access to clinical trials to all Minnesotans is a high priority for our Clinical Trials Office. Clinical trials can provide more options that may be more effective than current standard forms of treatment.” 

By focusing on clinical trials that can be offered as soon as someone is diagnosed with cancer, the Clinical Trials Office is able to provide treatments with the hope of improving the quality of life and overall prognosis of patients with particularly aggressive forms of cancer. To be eligible for these trials, early evaluation, as soon as possible after the diagnosis is made, is essential, especially for trials that are available for the first course of treatment before any other form of cancer therapy is given.

Starting standard treatment before research evaluation is often an exclusion criteria for first-line trials. While the portfolio of clinical trials for cancer is dynamic as research studies open and close at the University, there are currently a number of first-line clinical trials available and actively enrolling patients with newly diagnosed or progressed forms of gastrointestinal cancers. 

The Masonic Cancer Center’s Clinical Trials Office works with oncology physician investigators to bring these novel trials to the people of Minnesota, and partners with the M Health Fairview oncology clinic to schedule patients for early consultation to ensure accurate and timely assessment for these innovative clinic trial options. Some examples of these trials include:

  1. PANOVA-3 (NCT03377491): Enrolling patients newly diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma, determined to be locally advanced and not surgically removable. This trial is studying treatment with an external device utilizing Tumor Treating Fields in combination with gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel chemotherapy.
  2. NAPOLI-3 (NCT04083235): Enrolling patients who have not previously received chemotherapy for metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. This study is evaluating treatment with irinotecan liposome injection, oxaliplatin, and 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin versus treatment with nab-paclitaxel plus gemcitabine.
  3. NUC-1031 (NCT04163900): Enrolling patients with locally advanced or metastatic biliary tract cancer (including cancers of the gallbladder, intra- and extra-hepatic biliary ducts, and ampullary cancers) that has not yet been treated. This study compares NUC-1031, an investigational drug, plus Cisplatin chemotherapy to standard Gemcitabine plus Cisplatin chemotherapy.

Beyond initial treatments, the Masonic Cancer Center provides a broad variety of clinical trials including for patients whose cancer has spread despite other forms of treatment. To serve the needs of Minnesotans with advanced cancers, the Clinical Trials Office opened its new Developmental Therapeutics Clinic (DTC) in January 2021. The DTC is actively accepting referrals from physicians and patients. For more information, contact the Cancer Info Line at 612-624-2620 or