Our research focuses on better understanding the tumor-host interactions that facilitate metastasis, with the ultimate goal of discovering new, improved cancer therapies.
Death from breast cancer is largely attributed to metastasis—when the disease spreads to other tissues. In order to metastasize, cancer cells must be able to invade the local tissue, escape from the primary site, enter into and survive in the bloodstream or lymphatic system, pass from the blood vessels into other organs, and adapt to or modify the new site to create a new tumor.
The molecular mechanisms used by tumor cells to facilitate metastasis are largely unknown, as are the processes by which our normal, healthy cells paradoxically support tumor growth and metastasis.
Mechanisms of Breast Tumorigenesis & Metastasis
The research in our laboratory is focused on the mechanisms of breast tumorigenesis and metastasis. Despite the fact that death from breast cancer is largely attributed to metastasis, we still don’t understand the mechanisms governing this complicated process, and there are currently no drugs designed specifically to block or prevent metastasis. Thus, a key challenge is to understand the molecular mechanisms by which each step of metastasis occurs, and then to identify therapeutic targets that prevent metastasis.
We have developed new, complementary in vitro and in vivo approaches to gain a better understanding of breast tumorigenesis and metastasis. We developed a new model system to efficiently study breast cancer and metastasis in mice without generation of transgenic animals. Using these methods, we discovered that macrophage stimulating protein (MSP) is an important facilitator of breast cancer metastasis.
Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah has been awarded a $2.4 million, two-year grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to help continue its research in breast cancer. Alana Welm, PhD and Bryan Welm, PhD, investigators at HCI, along with Michael Lewis, PhD, a colleague at Baylor College of Medicine, will use this new funding to serve as a Breast Cancer Patient-derived xenograft Development and Trials Center (PDTC) to research and test new drugs for breast cancer. This new Center is only one of four such Centers in the nation.... Read More
More than 20 researchers from Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah made their mark on the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting this year. Held in Washington, D.C., the convention drew more than 21,500 cancer researchers from all over the world. Scientists attended sessions on topics from immunotherapy to precision medicine. About 15 researchers from HCI presented posters in the main conference hall, on a wide range of topics. ... Read More
Once breast cancer spreads through the body, it can degrade a patient’s healthy bones, causing numerous problems. Scientists at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah have identified a new way that bones get destroyed through cancer. And they’ve also learned how to block that destruction with a new drug. Initial tests with patients show promising results.... Read More
Breast cancer is far too common. In fact, one in eight women will be diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime. Many will be treated with chemotherapy and radiation, giving them a strong chance of survival, but about 30%, more than 75,000 each year, will face a metastasized cancer that isn't curable.... Read More