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Gordon B. Mills, MD, PhD

Oregon Health Sciences University
Portland, Oregon

Titles and Affiliations

Director of Precision Oncology
Director of SMMART Trials
Wayne and Julie Drinkward Endowed Chair in Precision Oncology
Professor and Section Chief of Precision Systems Oncology, Division of Oncological Sciences
Knight Cancer Institute

Research area

Developing new treatment combinations for breast cancer patients and identifying biomarkers to predict which patients are most likely to benefit from them.


Advances in immunotherapy have improved outcomes for patients with melanoma, lung, and some other cancers, but so far little success has been seen in patients with breast cancer. Identifying which patients are most likely to benefit from immunotherapy will greatly improve the success of these agents so that more patients can benefit. Dr. Mills is conducting studies to test the effectiveness of immunotherapy alone and in combination with other targeted treatments on different subtypes of breast cancer. He and his colleagues have developed 18 sophisticated laboratory models that recapitulate the heterogeneity of breast tumors—this represents a novel and exciting approach to study immunotherapy in breast cancer.

Progress Thus Far

Using these models, his team examined the interactions between targeted therapies (such as PARP inhibitors) and the immune system. These preclinical studies have identified a novel set of biomarkers of response, mechanisms of resistance, and combination therapies able to bypass resistance with marked benefit to patients with triple-negative breast cancer. Dr. Mills and his colleagues have implemented more than 10 clinical trials to validate the biomarkers identified in their laboratory studies and to explore the mechanisms underlying sensitivity and resistance in patients. They have developed biomarkers that are able to robustly identify patients likely to benefit from a combination of a PARP inhibitor and immunotherapy, and have identified two completely novel targets that they will explore in their breast cancer models.

What’s next

The team will continue to use their model systems to develop and validate biomarker profiles that can identify patients likely to benefit from various targeted or combination treatments. They will test immunotherapies both alone and in combination with targeted therapy in their breast cancer models and identify biomarkers that can aid in the development of new combination therapies. Dr. Mills and his team hope to move their innovative therapy platforms into the clinic to patients who will most benefit from them.


Gordon B. Mills, MD, PhD, is the Director of Precision Oncology, Director of SMMART trials, and holds the Wayne and Julie Drinkward Endowed Chair in Precision Oncology at the Knight Cancer Institute. In these roles, he is responsible for the implementation of an integrated program of tumor analysis, decision-making and implementation of novel precision oncology trials. The key goal will be to use serial tumor and liquid biopsies to evaluate and target adaptive responses in real time to interdict cancer evolution. The overarching goal is to perform deep molecular analysis of each patient “to let the patient teach us what is important.” This process is facilitated by the implementation and integration of a comprehensive suite of high-throughput technologies including assessment of genomic aberrations, transcriptional profiles, functional proteomics and metabolomics, and drug screening using conventional and high content imaging systems. We have also implemented a comprehensive functional genomics program designed to distinguish drivers from passengers and identify their therapeutic liabilities.

Dr. Mills has published more than 1000 papers and holds more than 20 patents. He has served as principal investigator or project investigator on many national peer-reviewed grants including NIH/NCI SPOREs and team grants (U01 and U54), Stand Up To Cancer, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, and Komen Foundation grants. His efforts have been recognized in the Komen Foundation’s Brinker Award for Scientific Excellence and the Finneran Family Prize for Translational Research. Dr. Mills has been very successful in supporting training, mentoring, and career development for young scientists including graduate students, fellows, and junior faculty. Most of his trainees have developed successful research careers rising through the ranks to full professor, department chairs, and institute directors. Based on this role, he has been nominated for and awarded multiple mentoring awards, including the Stand Up 2 Cancer Laura Ziskin Prize for Mentoring and the inaugural Waun Ki Hong award for mentorship. At the Knight Cancer Institute, Dr. Mills will take a major role in the mentoring, support and career development of young scientists and in particular physician scientists.

BCRF Investigator Since