Learning that cancer has spread, or metastasized, used to be the moment people lost hope. To know that cancer had grown and infected other healthy parts of the body sent shivers down the spines of both doctors and patients alike. Thankfully, dedicated researchers have committed their careers to learn more about this process and – most importantly – how to respond to it.
Recently, experts on the molecular behavior of breast cancer metastasis and the mechanical elements of metastasis joined forces to present their game-changing discoveries to other medical professionals. The goal is to improve the outcome of breast cancer treatments.
Amongst these researchers is Danny R. Welch, a National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) funded expert and leader in the field of metastasis. NFCR has supported Dr. Welch’s work since 1996. Since this time, Dr. Welch has remained dedicated to understanding the complexities of metastasis. His fascination with this field was fueled by the poor quality of life caused by metastasized cancer, including the side effects of pain, weight loss, bleeding, and impairment of organ function. But he was driven mainly by the upsetting fact that 90% of cancer-related deaths are due to metastasized cancer.
Dr. Welch has been quite successful in his commitment to discovering the unknown about metastasized cancer. He has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed publications and more than 35 book chapters and is the recipient of numerous mentoring and teaching awards.
With an undergraduate degree in biology and a Ph.D. in tumor biology, he joined the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine faculty in 1990. He ascended the faculty ranks to the level of Associate Professor. His professional postings include:
- 2002, Joined the University of Alabama at Birmingham as a Professor of Pathology and Director of the Metastasis Program at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
- 2002-2018, Led the NFCR Center for Cancer Metastasis.
- 2011, Founded the Department of Cancer Biology at Kansas University Medical Center.
In late 2020, Dr. Welch collaborated with other leading researchers in metastasis to present the latest findings at the 8th International Cancer Metastasis Congress in San Francisco. Together, they shared new insights into the complexities of metastasis and the many interacting components that play a part in it.
Dr. Welch and his team shared their exciting research highlighting the role of the mitochondrial genome in metastasis. After a series of in vivo studies, Dr. Welch and his team concluded that the mitochondrial genome senses change in the tumor’s microenvironment and communicates the changes required for the cell to adapt. Understanding this function opens the door for future research exploring the opportunity to obtain prognostic information from this genome and therapeutic targets within it.
Given that ninety percent of cancer-related deaths are due to metastasized cancer, this discovery could result in tens of thousands of lives saved each year. Understanding how and why metastasis happens will lead to more precise and effective treatment.
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