Center for Cancer Biology Research CoBRE

Researching Cancer in the Upper Midwest

The Center for Cancer Biology Research fosters a collaborative and supportive environment for its innovative cancer research laboratories. Researchers here work toward reducing the immense burden of cancer in South Dakota and across the Upper Midwest by translating basic discoveries into clinical trials for human cancer patients.

How We’re Funded

The NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences funds the Center for Cancer Biology. The goal of this grant is to support a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) as a foundation for basic science and translational cancer researchers.

What We Research

We focus our research on uncovering the basic mechanisms underlying the development of cancer, understanding the importance of the immune system and in turn developing novel approaches to treat cancer. The center has strengths and expertise in:

  • Pediatric brain tumors
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Leukemia
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Breast cancer

Our robust oncology clinical trial program includes immunotherapy trials that harness the power of the immune system to destroy tumors. It also includes physician-initiated trials.

How We Support the Scientific Community

The center supports and mentors junior investigators (project leaders) researching the importance of the immune system in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma and childhood cancers. The leadership team provides project leaders with an individualized mentorship plan to enhance their professional skills and further their research goals to become successful, independent investigators.

The Center also supports two interdisciplinary cores:

  1. Flow Cytometry Core
  2. Histology & Imaging Core

These provide center affiliates and regional scientists with key expertise and access to the latest technologies.

Our Publications

To learn more about the research center, see the published research under its CoBRE grant.

Real All Publications

Meet Our Team


  W. Keith Miskimins, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator 
   Paola Vermeer, Ph.D.
Program Coordinator



External Advisory Committee

Ira O. Daar, Ph.D.
Cancer and Development Biology Laboratory Chief
Senior Investigator Center for Cancer Research
Head, Developmental Signal Transduction Section
National Cancer Institute

Ronny Drapkin, M.D., Ph.D.
Franklin Payne Chair in Gynecologic Oncology
Associate Professor of Pathology in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Director, Ovarian Cancer Research Center
Director, Gynecologic Cancer Research
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

Keith Johnson, Ph.D.
Professor of Oral Biology
University of Nebraska Medical Center

Jose Conejo-Garcia, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Immunology
Moffitt Cancer Center

Researching Cancer in the Upper Midwest

Previous Awards:
Phase 1: A nearly $11.5 million grant to develop a group of basic science and translational cancer researchers

Phase 2: A five-year, nearly $11.7 million grant to translate laboratory research into clinical trials for head and neck

Current award:
Phase 3: A $6.2 million grant to continue building research expertise in cancer biology.
P.I'.s Keith Miskimins, PhD and Paola Vermeer, PhD

Phase 3 Pilot awards include:
Mike Kareta, PhD, Sanford Research
“Enhancing the immunogenicity of small cell lung cancer”

Wenfeng An, PhD, SDSU
“Preclinical study of a novel vaccine against head and neck cancer” 

Center Graduates

William (Chad) Spanos, M.D. Cisplatin mediated immune modulation of HPV positive head and neck cancer

Steven Powell, M.D. The impact of PD-1 inhibition on immune-response to chemoradiotherapy

Samuel Milanovich, M.D. Exploring the origins of childhood leukemia: investigating transcriptional networks in hematopoiesis and acute leukemia

Pilar de la Puente, Ph.D. Role of tumor microenvironment on tumor progression, drug resistance, and immune escape

Paola Vermeer, Ph.D. Exploring the roles of Ephrin B1 as a key signaling molecule in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC)

Subhash Chauhan, Ph.D. Cancer mucins and nanotherapy

Meena Jaggi, Ph.D. Etiology of Cervical Cancer Health Disparity in American Indian Women

John Lee, M.D. Iinhibition of mTOR signaling will improve immune-mediated clearance of HNSCC cells by altering tumor metabolism and/or through improving memory T cell differentiation.

Haotian Zhao, Ph.D. Sonic Hedgehog promotes proliferation of Notch-dependent monociliated choroid plexus tumour cells





Upcoming Events

2024 Annual Cancer CoBRE Symposium
Dates: November 18 - 19, 2024
Location: Sanford Center, Sioux Falls

For more info email

Sanford Health News