Voices of Impact – Dr. Tom Marshall
“Now, in the final year of my fellowship, I look forward to sharing what I have learned in the lab so that others can build on the information and bring us one step closer to the cures.”
“It’s been a privilege to share this information with others, but what I have gained as a result of working with Komen Utah – seeing the faces of actual people who are facing breast cancer, going through chemo and fighting for their lives – inspires and motivates my efforts each day in the lab.”
It was innate scientific curiosity that led me to a career in breast cancer research, but it’s the women I’ve met throughout my time as a Komen Fellow that inspire me to work harder than ever to end this disease.
My research into cell migration during graduate school led me to the laboratory of Dr. Jody Rosenblatt at the University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute where I received a Komen Postdoctoral Fellow grant to continue my research into cell motility. Dr. Rosenblatt’s lab is leading the way in understanding the processes and regulation of cell extrusion (the removal of cells from their primary location) which gave me a great opportunity to learn. As the only individual in this laboratory focused exclusively on breast cancer research, I have also collaborated and learned from the expertise of University of Utah’s Dr. Bryan Welm, whose lab has developed techniques that allow us to isolate and analyze mammary cells in mice, techniques that will hopefully help us identify novel treatment targets to prevent breast cancer metastasis. The work is challenging but fun, and I’m thrilled to see the headway we are making in understanding this disease.
As research funding across the country is cut, funding from organizations like Komen is pivotal, not only for labs but for the progress of science. At their core, the Komen Postdoctoral Fellow grants are investments in the future of breast cancer research. Since the program began, more than 80 percent of Komen-funded Fellows have remained in the field of breast cancer after their fellowship ended. These grants empower researchers like me to expand current knowledge of breast cancer and ultimately, save lives.
But raising funds to support breast cancer research isn’t only up to Race participants or Pink Tie Guys. As a researcher, I am directly benefiting from and utilizing funds raised by communities across the country, and I want those funds to continue to be available for my research and all researchers working to end breast cancer. We are a part of Komen, and we’re working on this together. That’s why shortly after my fellowship began, I started volunteering at Komen Utah: running an educational booth at the local Race for the Cure, speaking at donor events – helping however I could to show people exactly how their funds are supporting breast cancer research in their own community.
It’s been a privilege to share this information with others, but what I have gained as a result of working with Komen Utah – seeing the faces of actual people who are facing breast cancer, going through chemo and fighting for their lives – inspires and motivates my efforts each day in the lab. That is the overall goal: to end their suffering and to end breast cancer.
Now, in the final year of my fellowship, I look forward to sharing what I have learned in the lab so that others can build on the information and bring us one step closer to the cures. Outside of the lab, I have encouraged other Fellows to engage with Komen Utah, and hope to inspire researchers everywhere to join Komen in this fight.
My research may be only an incremental step, but to see that research as a whole is lowering breast cancer mortality rates and saving lives – both in Utah and around the globe – it is amazing. But when more than 400,000 lives are lost to this disease annually, it is clear that we need even more knowledge to solve this problem. This work has to continue and organizations like Komen are making it possible, leading the way in breast cancer research and bringing us one step closer to a world without breast cancer.
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.