Komen Scholar Dr. Alana Welm is using Komen funding for research that may lead to new ways to treat and prevent metastatic breast cancer. Her approach uses the body’s own immune system to fight breast cancer (immunotherapy), plus a targeted therapy that stops a specific protein called RON kinase, which is known to help tumor cells spread.
Dr. Welm’s team, including Komen-funded postdoctoral fellows Dr. Jaime Fornetti and Dr. Najme Faham, have shown that RON kinase inhibitors (drugs that block the activity of the protein) can stop the spread of breast cancer. They hope to test this new combination treatment approach (immunotherapy + RON kinase inhibitor) to prevent and treat metastasis.
In Dr. Welm’s lab, Dr. Fornetti is studying how RON kinase may also be involved in bone destruction caused by breast cancer cells that have metastasized to the bone. She will evaluate if the RON kinase inhibitor mentioned above can also stop this bone destruction from happening and improve life for patients living with bone metastases. Metastatic disease has impacted Dr. Faham through a family history of metastatic breast cancer, having lost several loved ones to this disease. She is trying to understand how RON kinase signals to other proteins and how that promotes breast cancer metastasis. Details on which signals lead to metastasis provide important targets for new therapies and understanding of how to stop disease progression.
First funded by Komen in 2003 as a postdoctoral fellow herself, Dr. Welm is a longtime advocate for Komen and the fight against breast cancer. She has been a Komen Scholar since 2016, and serves on the Board of Directors of Komen Utah Affiliate. Her lab even has an annual tradition of running the Komen Utah Race for the Cure in Salt Lake City – their team name is “Ron for the Cure!”
Dr. Welm's Lab: http://uofuhealth.utah.edu/huntsman/labs/a-welm/
- Dr. Welm’s husband, Bryan Welm, also runs a breast cancer research lab. The Welms met as graduate students at Baylor College of Medicine.
- Dr. Fornetti is a former NCAA basketball player.
- Dr. Faham has lived all over the world, including Iran, Germany and now the U.S.
- Outside of the lab, the two investigators share a love of the outdoors. Dr. Welm enjoys trail runs and fly fishing, and Dr. Fornetti enjoys mountain biking and camping. Dr. Faham also enjoys running.
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