Masonic Cancer Center

UMN Researchers awarded Multi-Million Dollar Grant to Research Metastatic Breast Cancer

A team led by Reuben Harris, PhD, Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics (BMBB), and Douglas Yee, MD, Director of the Masonic Cancer Center, and Professor in the Department of Medicine and Pharmacology, were recently awarded a multi-million dollar program project grant P01 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The $8.5M award will fund five years of research into an enzyme-driven mutation process in breast cancer. The project, titled “APOBEC Mutagenesis in Breast Cancer”, is a collaborative effort between the University of Minnesota and research partners throughout the country and around the world. In addition to Drs. Harris and Yee, Daniel Harki, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, UMN; Hideki Aihara, PhD, Associate Professor, BMBB, UMN; and Rommie Amaro, PhD, Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego, are project leaders.

“In work pioneered by our team at the Masonic Cancer Center, APOBEC enzymes have emerged as a dominant source of cell mutation in breast cancer,” said Yee. “This finding addresses a common, but poorly understood, problem in breast cancer - the development of resistance to medical therapy. This new research will lead to a deep molecular understanding of how tumors mutate and evolve, and why they eventually stop responding to therapies that had previously been working well.”

“This work will directly impact breast cancer and will benefit many other cancer types in the future, including tumors of the bladder, cervix, head/neck, lung, and ovary,” said Harris, who is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “We are especially grateful to the generous sponsors that helped support the foundation-building studies to discover APOBEC that led to this transformational NCI grant.”

This multi-investigator collaboration includes researchers from the University of Minnesota Health Sciences, College of Biological Sciences, College of Pharmacy, Masonic Cancer Center, and Medical School. Local and national supporters include the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Margaret Harvey Schering Trust for Cancer Research, Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance, Norwegian Centennial Chairs Fund, Prospect Creek Foundation, Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund, Team Judy, United States Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, and the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

About the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

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