Jan 29, 2018 8:00 AM

A researcher works on samples in the lab

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.

The Breast Cancer PDTC is based on cutting-edge research conducted over the past ten years at HCI. The Welms and their colleagues established methods that allow samples of tumors from breast cancer patients taken during biopsies or surgeries to be grown in the laboratory in ways closely resemble tumor growth in humans. Not only can the models of patient-derived tumors represent a diverse array of human breast cancers, the models can also be used to test new drugs and drug combinations to identify treatments that will best target the tumor.

The goal of the new Center is to provide data that can be used to help prioritize breast cancer clinical trials at HCI and NCI. Toward this goal, the Center will focus on testing new drugs that are already available through NCI’s Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network (ETCTN).

“This new grant will be used to test many different experimental cancer drugs available,” said Alana Welm. “This funding is critical to help us determine why certain drugs work for some people and why others do not. We then hope to turn these findings into new clinical trials as quickly as possible.”

 Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States, with one in eight women diagnosed in their lifetime. HCI provides comprehensive services for individuals throughout the Mountain West who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

The grant is supported by the NCI of the National Institutes of Health U54 CA224076 and can be extended up to five years.

Media Contact

Heather Simonsen
Public Relations – Huntsman Cancer Institute
Email Us
801 581-3194

Cancer Center Research Program Cell Response and Regulation

About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is the official cancer center of Utah and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West. The campus includes a state-of-the-art cancer specialty hospital and two buildings dedicated to cancer research. Huntsman Cancer Institute provides patient care, cancer screening, and education at community clinics and affiliate hospitals throughout the Mountain West. It is consistently recognized among the best cancer hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report. The region’s first proton therapy center opened in 2021 and a major hospital expansion is underway. Huntsman Cancer Institute is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment for staff, students, patients, and communities. Advancing cancer research discoveries and treatments to meet the needs of patients who live far away from a major medical center is a unique focus. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center, including genes responsible for breast, ovarian, colon, head and neck cancers, and melanoma. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

Cancer touches all of us.

Share Your Story