Dr. Basham is fighting for less toxic treatment options to battle adrenal cancer with support from 5 For The Fight, the cancer crowdfunding campaign and patch partner of the Utah Jazz.
As a freshman in high school, Katie Basham received some news that would change her life — her mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
“That was a scary time because I was 15 and I didn’t know what cancer was,” Basham says. “I started to learn through her experience and that inspired me to want to help cancer patients everywhere.”
Basham headed down the only path she knew, which was becoming a doctor. She began to realize that for her, clinical medicine was frustrating because often there wasn’t a good, specific therapy for certain cancers; doctors had to give the only option they had, one that had some benefit but created side effects.
“I just found that cycle really frustrating. And the problem is that there just isn’t enough known to create better therapies,” Basham says.
Unfortunately, she lost her mom to cancer during her last year of college.
“That taught me that going down the clinical path would be really difficult for me,” Basham says.
“I relate very strongly to patients and their families, but I really enjoy this [research] path because there’s so much intellectual freedom and so much ability to work on questions that you’re passionate about.”
Basham took a leap of faith and started her work in cancer research at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) and the University of Utah. For five years, she worked in Bryan Welm’s lab studying breast cancer research. She then headed to the University of Michigan, where she stayed for six years before coming back to HCI to set up her own lab.
The 5 For The Fight Fellowship, a grant for three years, is a welcome-home present of sorts. She will use the fellowship to further her study of a rare cancer, adrenal cancer. Currently, there is a single, often toxic, therapy for the disease.
“Most patients have a really difficult time tolerating the drug,” Basham says. “My research is really aimed at trying to understand adrenal cancer and the different genes and pathways that are altered, and then trying to create new therapies that are more targeted, ones that are going to kill the cancer cells but not harm normal cells.”
When she got word she received the 5 For The Fight fellowship, she was thrilled to know that she had both the financial and moral support of the community in Utah.
“It really is huge for starting out in my career, starting my laboratory, which is a big step in my professional career. I’m really ecstatic to come back to Huntsman Cancer Institute.”
Advice for Young Scientists
“I always encourage people just ask for what you’re looking for and go try it out. If you don’t see the opportunity, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Oftentimes if you just email people and express your interest and tell them why, that opportunity becomes available to you. And I think that’s been absolutely true at every step of my career.”
What She Would Tell Patients
“We as scientists do feel the sense of urgency, and we always want things to move faster. But I think there is a really powerful perspective to have to look back at different periods of time and see how much progress we really have made. It is making a difference. Even if on any given day you don’t make a huge breakthrough, it happens over time. The cumulative effect of research is what really makes the difference.”
Find out more about the research you have helped fund through the 5 For The Fight Cancer Research Fellowship at Huntsman Cancer Institute.
5 For The Fight invites everyone to give $5 for the fight against cancer at 5forthefight.org