Gordon Mills, MD, PhD

Dr. Gordon Mills’ research has been referenced more than 70,000 times making him one of the most cited medical scientists in the world. He founded the first cancer systems biology department in the US and has over 20 patents in novel technologies. He is one of the leading researchers in his field which is why Oregon Health and Sciences University’s Knight Cancer Institute recruited Dr. Gordon Mills in 2017 to lead the institute’s efforts in precision oncology as the director.

His background as a gynecologist is what fueled his interest in women related diseases and ultimately lead him to his research of breast cancer. That and the fact that he comes from a family history of cancer. “I am part of what is called a ‘cancer family undesignated,'” Mills says. “Every single person in my family, but one, for three generations died of or with cancer.” His family history with cancer certainly helps him get up in the morning to go to work.

His work, the lab at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute named after him—the Mills Lab, focuses on the genomics and genetics of breast and ovarian cancers and identifying and characterizing a number of potential tumor suppressor genes. On his current direction in the lab, Mills says, “Dr. Joe Gray and colleagues along with the work that I have brought along with me gives us without doubt the deepest and best patient and sample analytic program that exists in the world, and I have 170,000 air miles from last year alone that attests to the fact that I know what is going on around the world.” The SMMART clinical trial program that Drs. Gray, Mills, and colleagues are working on will treat each patient based on her or his own tumor, genetics, and lifestyle. About the SMMART clinical trials, Mills says, “This is an incredible opportunity for the patients in Oregon and SW Washington to have access to an ability to characterize the patient and the tumor and how it changes overtime at a level that cannot be done anywhere else. Period.”

Mills is no stranger to Komen. He has received grants from Komen in the past, and in 2013, Mills received the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science for his significant contributions to breast cancer research. He understands the role Komen plays in the community. “Komen does much more than fund research.” He says, “This is not restricted to supporting grants and fundraising, but rather the fact that there is support for patients so that they can access these types of therapies. There is a community that educates individuals in risk, risk prevention, and screening, and all of the pieces that are going to have to work together if we are going to make a difference for patients.” At the end of the day, that is what we are all trying to do. Researchers, organizations, advocates, and volunteers, we all are making a difference in the lives of others.

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