Our labs conduct basic and translational cancer research focused on improving outcomes for breast cancer patients through rigorous, multi-disciplinary, collaborative research. We have three major emphases centered on improving outcomes for breast cancer:

  1. Developing innovative models of human breast cancer that accurately reflect metastasis and response to therapy
  2. Understanding the biology of tumor-microenvironment interactions during metastasis, particularly the role of resident macrophages in shaping anti-tumor immune responses and facilitating metastatic tumor growth;
  3. Translating these findings toward development and testing of new therapies.

Metastasis

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, including patient-derived xenograft and organoid models.

Mary Beckerle
Alana L. Welm, PhD
Principal Investigator
alana.welm@hci.utah.edu
View Publications
Cancer Center Bio
Mary Beckerle
Bryan E. Welm, PhD
Principal Investigator
bryan.welm@hci.utah.edu
View Publications
Cancer Center Bio