Knight Cancer Institute lands big scientific name

Dr. Gordon Mills is joining the Knight Cancer Institute.

The Knight Cancer Institute has snagged a big scientific fish.

Dr. Gordon Mills runs the Institute for Personalized Therapy at the Anderson Cancer Center in Houston — the largest cancer center in the world.

Mills, who holds more than 20 patents, is now headed to Oregon to figure out what combination of drugs is most effective on what kinds of tumors. Instead of taking just one biopsy of a tumor when a cancer is first discovered, he plans to take biopsies every four to six weeks as a patient is treated.

“In the past we simply treated patients until they have a great outcome, which is what we’re hoping for, or in far too many cases the tumor progresses,” he said. “The goal is to understand what is happening in real time to that patient and that tumor and adapt our therapy to those changes.”

Undergoing a biopsy can be painful for the patient. But the institute is trying to develop new tests that are less painful, cheaper and more reliable. For example, tests that find cancer tumors DNA in the blood, urine or saliva.

“We are at an inflection point where we are changing the whole outcome for cancer patients,” Mills said.

“The idea of being able to focus in on this key critical question of what makes each person’s cancer different, and having the team that is dedicated to putting that in place was what drew me to the Knight Cancer Institute and OHSU.”

The director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, Brian Druker, said Mills is a world leader in cancer research. “He is one of the most credentialed, highly revered scientists in the field of oncology. Gordon understands that precision medicine is about finding what works for the individual patient and I have the utmost confidence that his vision will lift our institute to new heights in our goal to end cancer as we know it.”

Mills’ research focuses on the genomics and genetics of breast and ovarian cancers and identifying and characterizing a number of potential tumor suppressor genes.

The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute says Mills will lead the institute’s efforts in precision oncology.

Mills will begin moving his research to the Knight Cancer Institute over the next months and relocate approximately 15 members of his lab over the next year. His transition is expected to be complete in July 2018.

OHSU is a partner with Columbia Memorial Hospital in the Knight Cancer Collaborative in Astoria.