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

Debby Rogers
Public Relations - Huntsman Cancer Institute
801-587-7639

About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah is the official cancer center of Utah. The cancer campus includes a state-of-the-art cancer specialty hospital as well as two buildings dedicated to cancer research. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and is recognized among the best cancer hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report. As the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West, HCI serves the largest geographic region in the country, drawing patients from Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at HCI than at any other cancer center in the world, including genes responsible for hereditary breast, ovarian, colon, head, and neck cancers, along with melanoma. HCI manages the Utah Population Database, the largest genetic database in the world, with information on more than 11 million people linked to genealogies, health records, and vital statistics. HCI was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.