Welch named Cancer Center's associate director of basic science

Leadership role step toward NCI designation

The KU Cancer Center has hired a national expert in the science of tumor progression, filling a key leadership position and moving the cancer center closer to its goal of attaining National Cancer Institute designation.

Danny Welch has joined the cancer center as associate director of basic science.

Danny Welch

Welch comes to the KU Cancer Center from the University of Alabama-at-Birmingham, where he was director of the National Foundation for Cancer Research Center for Cancer Metastasis Research and the Leonard H. Robinson professor of pathology. He has held previous research positions at the Pennsylvania University College of Medicine, Glaxo Research Laboratories and the Upjohn Co. His research focuses on understanding how tumors metastasize.

“Ninety percent of the deaths and poor quality of life caused by cancer are due to metastasis – when cancer cells spread to make colonies elsewhere in the body,” Welch said.

His lab has developed many widely used metastasis models and discovered six of the 30 known metastasis suppressors. With experience in genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology, his research interests also include breast, melanoma, ovarian, pancreatic and colorectal cancers, glioblastoma and lymphoma.

“We’re very excited to have an experienced national leader in cancer research joining the cancer center as associate director of basic science,” said Roy A. Jensen, director of the KU Cancer Center. “I see great opportunities for synergy between his research program and our drug development program. He has a number of initiatives in his lab that are prime for developmental therapeutics right now. The opportunity for all of these folks to get together is very exciting.”

Welch has been named a Kansas Bioscience Eminent Scholar by the Kansas Bioscience Authority, which is contributing about $1.6 million for his recruitment. Through the eminent scholars program, the KBA helps Kansas institutions recruit established researchers who, like Welch, are nationally recognized for their scientific achievements and entrepreneurial spirit.

Welch will also serve as founding chair of a newly created Department of Cancer Biology. Cancer center leaders estimate there are fewer than 20 such departments in the country.

“Research in the 21st century is built upon interaction among disciplines,” said Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center. “Historically, university researchers have stayed within their own disciplines. As chair of our new Department of Cancer Biology, Dr. Welch will see to it that scientists from an array of disciplines are working together to discover new treatments and cures for cancer.”

Welch said he was excited to be part of the cancer center’s team of newly recruited leaders. “It’s a cancer center that’s on the rise,” he said. “There’s a palpable sense that the community is behind it and the state of Kansas is behind it. I want to be part of taking it to the next level.”

Welch is past chair of the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute Cancer Genetics Study Section. He received his doctorate in biomedical sciences-tumor biology from the University of Texas-Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in tumor biology at the University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center.

He began working at the KU Cancer Center part-time in January and will become full-time on April 1.

The KU Cancer Center will apply for National Cancer Institute designation in September.

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Susan Mercer, associate director, Institute for Policy and Social Research
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