Dr. Alana Welm, a Komen Scholar, is investigating whether we can treat and/or prevent metastatic breast cancer by using the body’s own immune system, along with a targeted therapy of drugs that block activity of a protein (called RON kinase) that is known to help tumor cells spread.
Dr. Welm’s team includes Komen-funded postdoctoral fellows Dr. Jaime Fornetti and Dr. Najme Faham. Dr. Fornetti is studying how the RON kinase protein may also be involved in destroying a person’s bones when their breast cancer has spread there. She will evaluate if the targeted treatment can also stop this destruction and thus improve life for patients living with bone metastases.
Like many other researchers, Dr. Faham’s work is very personal, 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. If she can determine which signals lead to metastasis, it can provide important targets for new therapies to stop disease progression.
First funded by Komen in 2003 as a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Welm is a longtime advocate for Komen and the fight against breast cancer. She has been a Komen Scholar since 2016 and has served on Komen Utah’s Board of Directors. Her lab annually participates in Komen’s Salt Lake City Race/Walk event – their team name is “Ron for the Cure!”
* 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 three investigators share a love of the outdoors. Dr. Welm enjoys trail runs and fly fishing, Dr. Fornetti enjoys mountain biking and camping, and Dr. Faham enjoys running.
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