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2005 Highlights

Patient care

  • A study led by Mayo Clinic researchers reported that a new "smart" drug treatment for an incurable form of recurrent brain cancer slowed tumor growth in more than one-third of adult patients who tried it. The same research team also developed a screening technique to help predict which patients will respond best to this treatment.

  • Researchers at Mayo Clinic reported results of two trials comparing adjuvant chemotherapy with or without concurrent trastuzumab (Herceptin) treatment in women with surgically removed HER2-positive breast cancer. The studies showed Herceptin therapy to be highly superior to standard treatment, reducing recurrence of cancer by half.

  • Surgeons performed the first heart transplant at Mayo Clinic Arizona in October 2005. Mayo Clinic in Arizona received approval from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) on Sept. 26, 2005, and officially opened its heart transplant program at that time. The program also includes surgery for advanced heart failure, cardiac rehabilitation services and the use of artificial hearts.

  • Mayo Clinic researchers used pharmacogenomics -- tailoring treatment to an individual's genetic makeup -- to develop a test and treatment for an inherited kidney disorder that can cause organ failure in children and young adults. The test can be used for guiding treatment for select cases of type I primary hyperoxaluria.

  • Researchers from Mayo Clinic found that pain from cancer that has spread to the bone can be effectively diminished with a new treatment that freezes the cancerous areas. The minimally invasive treatment, called cryoablation, can provide a higher quality of life to patients whose activities are greatly limited because of the debilitating pain.

  • Mayo Clinic researchers reported that using a genetic screening blood test before chemotherapy can decrease the toxicity of a three-drug chemotherapy regimen. The screening helped patients better tolerate the chemotherapy by receiving different amounts of the three drugs.

  • According to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, the Mayo Clinic liver transplant program achieved excellent, above-average adult patient survival rates. The program sees patients with an increasing progression of disease and complicated medical issues, which decreases the program's expected survival rate. However, the actual survival rate remains higher than average and is considered one of the best in the nation.

  • Mayo Clinic Cancer Center researchers, looking back at a decade of surgeries, determined that surgery to remove metastatic disease from the diaphragm, in conjunction with other procedures to remove the primary diseased tissue, significantly increases survival rates for patients with ovarian cancer.

  • Mayo Clinic physicians found that a new treatment for patients with a type of bile duct cancer promises a greater chance at survival. The five-year survival rate for patients who received radiation, chemotherapy and liver transplantation was 82 percent, as opposed to the 25 to 35 percent survival rate for patients whose treatment consisted of the more conventional therapy -- removal of the tumor.

  • Neurologists at Mayo Clinic created the first new, reliable and easy-to-use clinical tool in 30 years for measuring coma depth. When using the new scoring system, called the FOUR (Full Outline of UnResponsiveness) Score, evaluators assign a score of zero to four in each of four categories, including eye, motor, brain stem and respiratory function.

  • Mayo Clinic researchers found that using a specially designed gamma camera for breast imaging may help detect early-stage breast cancer. The camera allows physicians to differentiate between the metabolic behavior of tumors and normal breast tissue. In contrast, mammography relies on differences in appearance, which can often be subtle and obscured by densities in the surrounding breast tissue.


  • Mayo Clinic researchers discovered the inner workings of a defective DNA repair process and became the first to explain why certain mutations are not corrected in cells. The finding is important because genetic instability and accumulations of mutations lead to disease. The Mayo team discovered that under certain conditions, a key protein fails to recognize a specific form of DNA that it needs to begin the repair process.

  • Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that a molecule (B7-H1) may serve as "molecular armor," protecting kidney cancer tumors and repelling assaults by the immune system. This protection enables renal cell carcinoma -- the most common form of kidney cancer -- to grow and to spread. This new knowledge of the B7-H1 molecule could help to develop a drug to improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy.

  • A Mayo Clinic research team devised a new virus-based system to deliver gene therapy to help fight cancer. The new approach relies on therapeutic "hitchhikers." A specific kind of T cell attaches to the virus and "hitchhikes" to the tumor. T cells are the immune system's major line of defense against a tumor, so by hitching a ride, the therapeutic particles can hit their tumor target while avoiding detection (and destruction) by the immune system.

  • Investigators at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center reported that using the combination therapy of lenalidomide and dexamethasone (Rev/Dex) in newly diagnosed patients with multiple myeloma reduced the myeloma cancer protein levels by more than half in 91 percent of patients -- much higher than response rates of current therapies. In addition to the positive responses, patients found that the side effects from the treatment were manageable.

  • Mayo researchers discovered a key step in the early development of the immune system by showing that a specific protein is essential for the creation of T cells. T cells are the basic but aggressive infantry of white blood cells that defend against invading organisms.

  • Mayo Clinic researchers discovered the protein that distinguishes a severe form of multiple sclerosis (MS), known as neuromyelitis optica, or Devic's disease. Early treatment of this severe form of the disease improves the chance for a good recovery and can help avoid recurring episodes of blindness, paralysis, painful spasms, loss of sensation and incontinence.

  • Mayo Clinic researchers working with colleagues in Germany discovered a way to fight cancer by using parts of a virus found in tree shrews, small Southeast Asian mammals. The researchers used the virus to create a disguise for an engineered measles virus that enables it to sneak past the immune system. It then kills cancer cells without harming healthy cells. The work is still experimental, but it is a key step forward in the science of redirecting or retargeting a virus through genetic engineering.

  • Mayo Clinic researchers discovered an inherited structural mechanism that can make drugs for some diseases toxic for some patients. The mechanism causes certain individuals to metabolize thiopurine drugs differently. Thiopurine therapies are used to treat patients with childhood leukemia, autoimmune diseases and organ transplants. The Mayo researchers say their finding advances the field of pharmacogenomics, which tailors medicine to a patient's genetic makeup.

  • A study led by Mayo Clinic showed for the first time that a drug appears to have a slowing effect -- though limited -- on the progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease. Researchers are hopeful that the study will be a forerunner in finding ways to treat the disease earlier in the process by laying the groundwork for testing other drugs.

  • Mayo Clinic researchers and researchers at the University of Minnesota and Massachusetts General Hospital were able for the first time to reverse memory loss in mice with significant brain degeneration. The breakthrough offers hope to the estimated 4 million people living with Alzheimer's disease.

  • A team of researchers at Mayo Clinic and colleagues in Canada and Germany discovered a gene and six mutations of the gene that cause symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The team found a mutation of the gene, named LRRK2, in members of six families with many individuals affected by Parkinson's disease.


  • Mayo Clinic College of Medicine opened the Mayo Clinic Multidisciplinary Simulation Center, a 10,000- square-foot technology center in Rochester. The center features computer and robotic technologies that allow students, residents, allied health trainees and physician staff to practice diagnosis, examinations and procedures. The simulation-based education complements traditional clinical training and was designed to enhance patient safety.

  • "Discovery's Edge," Mayo Clinic's online research magazine, debuted in February 2005. The new magazine features articles on research in progress, trends in medical research, new medical technologies, patient stories and profiles of investigators.

  • More than 230 students and teachers got a firsthand look at medical laboratories and research programs during the Mayo Clinic "Celebration of Research." Thirty-three high schools sent interested science students and teachers to learn about careers in medical research. Teachers also participated in science mentoring discussions with Mayo educators.

  • All 36 Mayo Medical School seniors who participated in the 2005 National Residency Matching Program were successful in matching with a residency program. Ninety-four percent matched to a program among their top three choices. Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education reported that 99.3 percent of its residency training positions were filled.

  • The University of North Dakota conducted a special commencement ceremony at Mayo Clinic in January 2005. Twelve Mayo Clinic clinical laboratory employees received bachelor of science degrees earned through a distance-learning program offered by the university and Mayo Clinic's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology.

  • The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation awarded the Professor of Survivorship to Charles Loprinzi, M.D., a Mayo Clinic medical oncologist. The award recognizes Dr. Loprinzi's more than 15 years of research on key concerns of breast cancer survivors.

  • Keith Lindor, M.D., professor of medicine and consultant in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, became dean of Mayo Medical School in January 2005. Dr. Lindor succeeded Anthony Windebank, M.D., who had served as dean since 1998.

  • Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, delivered the commencement address for Mayo Clinic College of Medicine graduating classes. Eighty-four new physicians and scientists received degrees from Mayo Clinic College of Medicine during the ceremony.

  • Mayo Clinic hosted its second Action on Obesity Summit, bringing together government officials, health care practitioners, business leaders and patients to develop plans to combat this growing public health problem.

Honors and achievements

  • Mayo Clinic Cancer Center received a Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for breast cancer research. The SPORE grant will bring $6.9 million over three years to Mayo Clinic to advance translational research intended to help breast cancer patients and those at risk for breast cancer.

  • Luther Midelfort, part of Mayo Health System, received the American Medical Group Management Association's Acclaim Award. The Acclaim Award is the AMGA's most prestigious quality award. This is the sixth straight year a Mayo Health System organization has been recognized by the Acclaim program and the first time that a Mayo Health System organization has won the top award.

  • Mayo Clinic was named one of the "Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles" by the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit organization. The award was given to Mayo for its commitment and dedication to combating obesity and promoting a healthy lifestyle for its employees. Mayo received a Gold Award for its health promotion efforts.

  • In May, physicians, staff and honored guests celebrated 50 years of heart bypass surgery at Mayo Clinic. The Mayo-Gibbon heart-lung machine, which was perfected at Mayo in 1955, led to the world's first successful series of open-heart surgical procedures.

  • For the third consecutive year, Mayo Clinic was named one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" by Fortune magazine in its annual compilation of companies that "rate high with employees." The ranking was based in part on a survey of employees at all Mayo Clinic sites.

  • Mayo Clinic Jacksonville held a groundbreaking celebration for its Mayo Clinic Hospital, which will open in 2008. Proceeds from the sale of St. Luke's Hospital and more than $80 million in contributions from benefactors and staff paved the way for building the $255 million, six-floor, 214-bed facility.

  • The Mayo Clinic Collaborative Research Building, a biomedical facility that joins Mayo Clinic Arizona and the biotech firm Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), opened on the Scottsdale campus. The 110,000 square-foot building houses the technological, academic, research and clinical expertise of multiple strategic partners -- all dedicated to the advancement of cancer research -- under one roof.
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