Region 1

Steven Powell, MD, Lab

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Primary Research Group

Secondary Research Groups


Dr. Powell Bio

Sam Milanovich

  • Associate scientist in the Cancer Biology Research Center
  • Assistant Professor at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, Department of Surgery
  • Bachelor’s of Science and Engineering in Biomedical Engineering from Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)
  • Doctor of Medicine from the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, Vermillion, SD
  • Residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)
  • Fellowship in Hematology and Oncology at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)

Primary Research Focus

Steven Powell, MD, is a practicing medical oncologist and a physician scientist. His laboratory focuses on integrating novel immunotherapies into the management of head and neck cancer and concurrently developing predictive biomarkers. His primary goal is to comprehend how to best incorporate immunotherapy into the management of locally advanced and metastatic head and neck cancer.

Dr. Powell’s research has led to novel strategies to use immune checkpoint inhibitors in combination with chemotherapy and radiation to augment anti-tumor response. Additionally, his work has evaluated biomarkers of immune response. As a clinician, Dr. Powell seeks to bring what he finds in the lab to clinical trials, to directly impact patient care.

Behind the research

Translational Research Laoratory
The host immune response is critical for the clearance of head and neck cancer during chemoradiotherapy (CRT). Dr. Powell’s translational research laboratory focuses on evaluation of human biospecimens to evaluate targets for novel therapies to augment this response during CRT. Additionally, his lab evaluates immune biomarkers in this setting. We are currently evaluating the peripheral blood immunocyte response during standard CRT and during investigational immunotherapy combination CRT clinical studies. Patient immune phenotype and functional response during treatment is assessed to determine peripheral blood immune response. Additionally, we are investigating tumor and tumor microenvironment factors that may impact the host immune response. In collaboration with the Spanos and Vermeer labs, Dr. Powell’s lab utilizes an immune competent mouse model that harbors HPV+ tumors to explore novel immuno-oncology agents in combination with CRT. The primary goal of his lab is to develop a biomarker driven approach to include novel therapeutics into the management of advanced head and neck cancer.

Clinical Research
Dr. Powell is a principal investigator for head and neck cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, and genomic oncology trials at Sanford Health. His investigator-initiated research has an emphasis on integrating novel immunotherapies into the management of head and neck cancers. Access current active clinical trials here.

Contact Christie Ellison or Janet Wernisch for more information on Dr. Powell’s investigator-initiated studies.

Access Steven Powell's publications here.


Contact Us  

Jan Wernisch, BSN OCN CCRP
Project Manager
Genomic and Preclinical Research
Phone: (605) 312-3324
Fax: (605) 312-3321

Christie Ellison, BSN, OCN, CCRP
Project Manager
Head and Neck Research
Phone: 605-312-3323
Fax: 605-312-3321

 Positions Available

Join a dedicated team of researchers and help shape the future of cancer treatments. See the following open positions:




Powell Lab in the Press

June 14, 2017 Sanford Health oncologist presents at National Cancer Conference

May 19, 2017: Medical Study Helps Brookings Man Beat Cancer

September 16, 2016: NIH Selects Sanford for grant to move cancer research to clinical trials

July 26, 2016: Genetic profiling increases cancer treatment option, Sanford Study Finds

July 19, 2016: Sanford physician assists in developing new treatment to prevent nausea, vomiting caused by chemotherapy

February 24, 2016: Sanford head, neck cancer clinical trial will aim to activate immune system

April 2, 2015: Sanford enrolling patients for head, neck cancel clinical trial

August 1, 2014: Sanford clinical trial looks for genetic targets in cancer