Alan Wells, MD, DMSc
Thomas J. Gill III Professor of Pathology

Alan Wells, MD, DMSc, is the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Section of Laboratory Medicine (encompassing Clinical Chemistry, Clinical Microbiology, Hematopathology, Immunopathology, Transfusion Medicine, and Clinical Pathology throughout the UPMC Health System). He also serves as the Medical Director for the UPMC Clinical Laboratories. As the Thomas Gill III Professor of Pathology, Wells directs a large research endeavor investigation how cells interact with and respond to their microenvironment during cancer dissemination and wound healing, with an eye towards biologically engineered and stem cell therapeutics in these arenas.

Office Location:
UPMC Clinical Laboratories
UPMC Clinical Lab Building-Rm. 9022
3477 Euler Way
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 USA
Contact Information:
Office Telephone: 412-647-7813
Fax: 412-647-8567
Email: wellsa@upmc.edu

Clinical Expertise

Alan Wells, MD DMSc, is medical director of the largest integrated academically-based clinical laboratory enterprise in the US. His clinical expertise resides in clinical laboratory medical management and how that impacts quality care.

Research Interests

The Wells Laboratory research program, in close collaboration with its research partners, aims to understand cell migration in terms of how motility processes are regulated, and understand how this regulation of migration plays a role in physiologic and pathologic situations. We are integrating the knowledge gained from our biochemical and biophysical mechanistic studies into our investigations concerning conditions of dysregulated (tumor invasion) and orchestrated (wound healing and organogenesis) cell motility. As part of understanding the motility response, we are investigating both how this particular integrated cell response is selected from among others and the metabolic consequences of motility. This integrative approach provides reinforcing insights and novel avenues for exploration into the basic signaling pathways as well as functioning of whole organism. As a model system, we explore motility signaling from the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in adherent cells. EGFR plays a central role in the functioning in a wide variety of both stromal and epithelial tissues, and is the prototype for other receptors with intrinsic tyrosine kinase activity. Thus, these studies should have widespread implications.

The two central foci are tumor progression and wound repair. In tumor progression, we examine breast and prostate carcinoma invasion and metastases in terms of molecular signals and the special micro-environments. For this, the laboratory uses human tissues, animal models, and a unique 4-dimensional liver microtissue. In would repair, the current model system is skin wound healing, in which the communications between the epidermis, dermis, and blood vessels is parsed at the molecular levels. The role of stem cells in the natural repair process and as a rationale therapeutic is also being investigated. These two areas are re-inforcing as many of the key molecules and cellular processes are part of the generalizable onco-fetal-wound program.

Awards and Honors

  • 2001 - American Society for Clinical Investigation
  • 2002 - American Association of University Pathologists (Pluto Club)
  • 2008 - Keynote Speaker, European Tissue Repair Society Annual Meeting, Malta
  • 2008 - Pitt Innovator Awardee
  • 2010 - 11 Chair, NIH Study Section Surgery, Anesthesiology and Trauma (SAT)
  • 2011 - William E Brown Outstanding MSTP Mentor Award, UPitt
  • 2011 - Distinguished Mentor, Biomedical Graduate Students Association, UPitt
  • 2011 - Keynote Speaker, Japan Society for Laboratory Medicine Annual Meeting
  • 2012 - Keynote Speaker, WVU Breast Cancer Center, Annual Retreat, West Virginia Univ
  • 2012 - Gregory Derringer Pathology Grand Round, IUPUI
  • 2012 - Chair, VA Study Section - Oncology
  • 2013 - Provost's Award for Excellence in Mentoring, UPitt
  • 2013 - Pitt Innovator Awardee

NIH Research

View Dr. Wells' NIH RePORT on nih.gov

Selected Publications

View Dr. Wells' publications on PubMed

Peer-Reviewed Articles

  • J Grahovac, D Becker, A Wells (2013). Melanoma cell invasiveness is regulated at least in part by the epidermal growth factor-like repeats of tenascin-C. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 133, 210-220. PMID: 22951722.
  • M Rodrigues, HC Blair, L Stockdale, L Griffith, A Wells (2013). Surface tethered epidermal growth factor protects proliferating and differentiating multipotent stromal cells from FasL induced apoptosis. Stem Cells 31, 104-116. PMID: 22948863.
  • T Travers, H Shao, A Wells, C Camacho (2013). Modeling the assembly and disassembly of multi-domain structures of α-actinin-4 and its role in actin-crosslinking. Biophysical Journal 104, 705-715. PMID: 23442921.
  • D Taylor, JZ Wells, A Savol, C Chennubhotla, A Wells (2013). Modeling boundary conditions for balanced proliferation in metastatic latency. Clinical Cancer Research 19, 1063-1070. PMID: 23329811. PMCID: PMC3594128.
  • H Shao, T Travers, C Camacho, A Wells (2013). The carboxyl tail of α-actinin-4 regulates its susceptibility to m-calpain and thus functions in cell migration and spreading. International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology 45, 1051-1063. PMCID: PMC3633689.
  • M Rodrigues, CC Yates, A Nuschke, L Griffith, A Wells (2013). The matrikine tenascin-C protects multipotential stromal cells/mesenchymal stem cells from death cytokines such as FasL. Tissue Engineering 19, 1972-1983. PMID: 23541003. PMCID: PMC3725854.
  • Z Ding, M Joy, R Bhargava, M Gunsaulus, N Lakshman, M Miron-Mendoza, M Petroll, J Condeelis, A Wells, P Roy (2014) Profilin-1 downregulation has contrasting effects on early vs late steps of breast cancer metastasis. Oncogene 33, 2065-2074. PMID: 23686314. PMCID: PMC3834125.
  • J Jamison, D Lauffenburger, JH-C Wang, A Wells (2013). PKCδ localization at the membrane increases traction force dependent on PLCγ1/EGFR signaling. PLoS One 8, e77434. PMID: 24155954. PMCID: PMC3796482.
  • T-C Hang, NC Tedford, RJ Reddy, T Rimchala, A Wells, FM White, RD Kamm, DA Lauffenburger (2013). Vascular endothelial growth factor and platelet factor 4 inputs modulate human microvascular endothelial signaling in a three-dimensional matrix migration context. Molecular and Cellular Proteomics 12, 3704-3718. PMID: 24023389. PMCID: PMC3861718.
  • RJ Bodnar, ME Rodgers, W Chen, A Wells (2013). Pericyte regulation of vascular remodeling through the CXC Receptor 3. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 33, 2818-2829. PMID: 24135023.
  • MC Sekar, K Shahiwala, L Leloup, A Wells (2014). Modulation of epidermal growth factor stimulated ERK phosphorylation and motility by inositol trisphosphate kinase. Journal of Pharmacological Sciences and Pharmacology 1, 1-5.
  • DP Taylor, A Clark, S Wheeler, A Wells (2014). Hepatic nonparenchymal cells drive metastatic breast cancer outgrowth and partial epithelial to mesenchymal transition. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 144, 551-560. PMID: 24610032. PMCID: PMC4009995.
  • B Ma, A Wells (2014). The MAP kinases p38 and ERK are involved in hepatocyte-mediated phenotypic switching in prostate cancer cells. Journal of Biological Chemistry 289, 11153-11161. PMID: 24619413.
  • J Jamison, JH-C Wang, A Wells (2014). PKCδ regulates force signaling during VEGF/CXCL4 induced dissociation of endothelial tubes. PLoS One 9, e93968. PMID: 24699667. PMCID: PMC3974837.
  • AC Huen, A Marthi, A Wells (2014). CXCL11 expression by keratinocytes occurs transiently between reaching confluence and cellular compaction. Submitted.
  • SE Wheeler, AM Clark, DP Taylor, CL Young, V Pillai, DB Stolz, R Venkataramanan, D Lauffenburger, L Griffith, A Wells (2014). Spontaneous dormancy of metastatic breast cancer cells in an all human liver microphysiologic system. British Journal of Cancer 111, 2342-2350.
  • H Shao, S Li, SC Watkins, A Wells (2014). α-actinin-4 is required for amoeboid-type invasiveness of melanoma cells. Journal of Biological Chemistry 289, 3271732728.
  • A Nuschke, M Rodrigues, DB Stolz, C Chu, L Griffith, A Wells (2014). Human mesenchymal stem cells/multipotent stromal cells consume accumulated autophagosomes early in differentiation. Stem Cell Research and Therapy 5, e140.
  • K Warita, T Warita, C Beckwitt, M Schurdak, A Vazquez, A Wells, ZN Oltvai (2015). Statin-induced mevalonate pathway inhibition attenuates the growth of mesenchymal-like cancer cells that lack functional E-cadherin mediated cell cohesion. Scientific Reports 4, e7593.
  • M Furukawa, S Wheeler, AM Clark, A Wells (2015). Lung epithelial cells induce both phenotype alteration and senescence in breast cancer cells. PLoS One 10:e0118060.
  • T Travers, H Shao, BA Joughin, DA Lauffenburger, A Wells, C Camacho (2015). Novel regulatory mechanism by tandem phosphorylation sites in the intrinsically disordered N-terminal region of ACTN4. Science Signaling 8, ra51.

Reviews and Perspectives

  • A Wells, J Grahovac, S Wheeler, DP Taylor, B Ma, DA Lauffenburger (2013). Targeting tumor cell motility as a strategy against invasion and metastasis. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences 34, 283-289. PMID: 23571046. PMCID: PMC3640670.
  • A Wells, LG Griffith, JZ Wells, DP Taylor (2013). The dormancy dilemna: Balanced proliferation versus quiescence. Cancer Research 73, 3811-3816. PMID: 23794703. PMCID: PMC3702639.
  • J Grahovac, DA Lauffenburger, A Wells (2014). Matricellular proteins as regulators of cancer cell invasion. Lab Investigation 94, 31-40. PMID: 24247562.
  • SE Wheeler, JT Borenstein, AM Clark, M Ebrahimkhani, IJ Fox, L Griffith, W Inman, D Lauffenburger, T Nguyen, VC Pillai, R Prantil-Baun, DB Stolz, D Taylor, T Ulrich, R Venkataramanan, A Wells, C Young (2014). All-Human Model of Metastasis Therapy. Stem Cell Research and Therapy 4S1, S11. PMID: 24565274. PMCID: PMC4028965.
  • AM Clark, SE Wheeler, DP Taylor, VC Pillai, CL Young, R Prantil-Baun, T Nguyen, DB Stolz, JT Borenstein, DA Lauffenburger, R Venkataramanan, LG Griffith, A Wells (2014). A microphysiological system model of therapy for liver micrometastases. Experimental Biology and Medicine 239, 1170-1179. PMID: 24821820. PMCID: PMC4574864.

Reviews and Perspectives

  • A Wells, J Grahovac, S Wheeler, DP Taylor, B Ma, DA Lauffenburger (2013). Targeting tumor cell motility as a strategy against invasion and metastasis. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences 34, 283-289. PMID: 23571046. PMCID: PMC3640670.
  • A Wells, LG Griffith, JZ Wells, DP Taylor (2013). The dormancy dilemna: Balanced proliferation versus quiescence. Cancer Research 73, 3811-3816. PMID: 23794703. PMCID: PMC3702639.
  • J Grahovac, DA Lauffenburger, A Wells (2014). Matricellular proteins as regulators of cancer cell invasion. Lab Investigation 94, 31-40. PMID: 24247562.
  • LG Griffith, A Wells, DB Stolz (2014). Engineering liver. Hepatology 60, 1426-1434. PMID: 24668880.
  • H Shao, JM Kirkwood, A Wells (2015). Tenascin C signaling in melanoma. Cell Adhesion and Migration, in press.
  • B Ma, A Khazali, A Wells (2015). CXCR3 in carcinoma progression. Histology and Histopathology, in press.
  • A Wells, A Nuschke, CC Yates (2015). Skin tissue repair: matrix microenvironmental influences. Matrix Biology, accepted.