Steven Powell, MD, Lab

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Primary Research Group

Cancer Biology & Immunotherapies

Secondary Research Groups

Environmental Influences on Health & Disease
Genetics & Genomics


Dr. Powell Bio

Sam Milanovich

  • Assistant Scientist, Cancer Biology & Immunotherapies Group
  • Medical Oncologist, Sanford Cancer Center
Academic Affiliation
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, University of South Dakota School of Medicine

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.

Contact Information  

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

Contact Sanford Research

Address: 2301 E. 60th Street N
Sioux Falls, SD 57104
Phone: (605) 312-6300
Fax: (605) 312-6071