pathology research

The Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology has both strong basic and clinical research components. It has consistently been ranked among the top pathology departments in the United States in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant funding.

The department has been very effective in promoting these efforts by working in partnership with Medical School-wide centers. Through these partnerships, the department has strengthened its own research base while making major contributions to the research enterprise of the institution as a whole. We are fundamentally committed to building on these productive interactions and promoting the research opportunities they afford.

Cancer Biology

The department has a very close working relationship with the University of Minnesota's Masonic Cancer Center, an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Many of the department's faculty play major leadership roles in the Cancer Center: James McCarthy is the Tumor Microenvironment program co-leader. Yoji Shimizu is the program leader for Immunology.  Scott Dehm is the group leader for Genitourinary Tumors Translational Work Group.  Betsy Hirsch is the Cytogenomics Shared Resource director.

Cancer Biology Faculty

  • Khalil Ahmed, PhD, is studying the functional role of protein kinase CK2 in cancer cells, employing prostate cancer and head-and-neck cancer as experimental models at the VA Medical Center.
  • Scott Dehm, PhD, focuses on the role of the androgen receptor (AR) in prostate cancer development and progression.
  • Alessio Giubellino, MD, PhD, studies the molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways in melanoma with the goal of developing predictive biomarkers and combination therapies for the disease. 
  • Steve Hecht, PhD, studies mechanisms and prevention of tobacco-induced cancer, focusing on tobacco carcinogens, their metabolism and DNA adducts.
  • Betsy Hirsch, PhD, uses cytogenetic and molecular cytogenetic techniques to analyze and elucidate chromosome abnormalities in inherited disorders, cancer, and residual disease in cancer patients before and following treatment.
  • Ameeta Kelekar, PhD, is investigating the differences in how metabolic pathways operate in malignant versus healthy tissue.
  • James McCarthy, PhD, studies the importance of changes in microenvironment in the growth, invasion and progression of prostate tumors and melanoma.
  • Kaylee Schwertfeger, PhD, focuses on the correlation of inflammation within the tumor microenvironment with increased invasiveness and poor prognosis in many types of cancer, including breast cancer.
  • Amy Skubitz, PhD, is examining how ovarian cancer cells adhere to the extracellular matrix, to each other, and to cells that line the peritoneal cavity, which contains the ovaries.
  • Ruping Sun, PhD, is a computation genetics and bioinformatic scientist who studies the translational genomics of solid tumors using multi-region sequencing (MRS) techniques he pioneered.
  • Stefani Thomas, PhD, uses mass spectrometry targeted proteomics methods to elucidate the biology of ovarian cancer and analyze proteins derived from alterations in cancer genomes and related biological processes.
  • Bharat Thyagarajan, MD, PhD, MPH, and his colleagues in the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory are implementing DNA sequence-based tumor diagnostics.


The neuroscience group within the department utilizes a variety of cellular and genetic approaches, including the genomic engineering of laboratory animals, to examine mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and ataxias. Department faculty members also work in the Medical School-wide Institute for Translational Neuroscience, a presidential initiative to promote the transfer of discoveries in the basic neurosciences to clinical practice.

Neuroscience Faculty

  • Liam Chen, MD, PhD, studies the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in the central nervous system.
  • Brent Clark, MD, PhD, conducts neuropathological studies of degenerative neurological diseases, most notably hereditary cerebellar ataxias and the central nervous system effects of myotonic dystrophy.
  • Mike Koob, PhD, develops novel tools for engineering the genomes of laboratory animals to learn how genes that cause mitochondrial and neurodegenerative diseases function.
  • Harry T. Orr, PhD, uses genetic, behavioral and cell biological approaches to explore the pathogenesis of polyglutamine neurodegenerative diseases including spinocerebellar ataxia.


The department has a long history of immunology research. In 1995, department faculty established the Medical School-wide Center for Immunology. The Center has over sixty members across the Medical SchoolCollege of Veterinary Medicine, and the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Of this multi-departmental group, nine are members of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. Kristin Hogquist is associate director of the center.

Immunology Faculty

  • Michael Farrar, PhD is studying B-cell development in the bone marrow and B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the developmental pathway of T regulatory cells, and cancer immunotherapy.
  • Sara Hamilton Hart, PhD focuses her research on CD8+ T cells with the goal of learning how to manipulate them to elicit the optimal protective immune response to pathogen infection. 
  • Kristin Hogquist, PhD, is investigating the molecular mechanisms of T cell development in the thymus.
  • Stephen Jameson, PhD, is studying the mechanisms that regulate the development and maintenance of T cells in the body.
  • Christopher Pennell, PhD, is studying novel strategies for immunotherapy including T-cell chimeric antigen receptors (CARs).
  • Yoji Shimizu, PhD, is investigating the intracellular signal transduction events that regulate adhesive interactions critical for effective antigen-specific immune responses.

Cardiovascular, Renal Disease & Diabetes

The department’s research in cardiovascular disease and diabetes is conducted mainly through the Advanced Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (ARDL).  ARDL is a distinguished central biochemical laboratory that manages routine and specialized clinical testing requests including specimen procurement and sample storage for more than a hundred active projects worldwide. ARDL has served as the central lab for some of the National Institute of Health's largest multi-center, longitudinal studies of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Cardiovascular, Renal Disease & Diabetes Faculty

  • Jan Czyzyk, MD studies biomolecular mechanisms and potential biomarkers in type 1 diabetes and also the genetic basis for kidney podocyte structure and function.
  • John Eckfeldt, MD, PhD, has served as PI for the central laboratory at the Advanced Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (ARDL) in many very large epidemiologic observational studies and clinical trials of cardiovascular disease and iron absorption and storage disorders.
  • Amy Karger, MD, PhD, is a faculty investigator in ARDL who focuses her research on predicting and delaying the progression of chronic kidney disease.
  • Anthony Killeen, MD, PhD, is PI for the central laboratory (ARDL) of the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), an NIH-funded multi-center, randomized clinical trial.
  • Danni Li, PhD applies mass spectrometry to the discovery of biomarkers for diagnosis including for diabetes and heart disease.
  • Michael Steffes, MD, PhD, has served as PI for the central laboratory at ARDL in many large epidemiologic observational studies and clinical trials of diabetes, renal disease, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Michael Tsai, PhD, has served as PI for the central laboratory at ARDL in many large epidemiologic observational studies and clinical trials of cardiovascular disease, lipid disorders, homocysteine disorders, and diabetes.

Research Ethics

We are committed to protecting research participants, upholding ethical standards, and improving our practice at every step of our work.

Commitment to Research Ethics