Colleagues pay tribute to cancer researcher Patti Keely

June 30, 2017 By Andrew Hellpap

It would be easy to simply say Patti Keely was a world-class, nationally recognized breast cancer researcher at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

And, that would be correct ­– but only part of the picture.

Photo of Patti Keely

Patti Keely

Keely succumbed to her battle with advanced pancreatic cancer June 24.

Those who knew her help reveal all that Keely was.

Her leadership, mentorship and her collaborative nature allowed her to make a tremendous impact in this world, according to Dr. Howard Bailey, associate dean for oncology and director of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.

“Our thoughts are with her son David, her spouse Tom, and her parents and siblings. Our deepest condolences to her family for their profound loss,” he said. “Wisconsin’s cancer community will miss her and cherish her significant and valuable contributions.”

Keely chaired the Department of Cell and Regenerative Biology at the School of Medicine and Public Health and served as the Jan and Kathryn Ver Hagen professor of translational research, and principal investigator at the Keely Lab.

To the eight current members of her lab, and the more than a dozen past members, she most surely made an indelible impact, according to various news stories chronicling her inspirational life journey, which included two previous battles with cancer.

In a beautiful show of appreciation, the current members of the lab threw a dance party for her in April to celebrate her life and what she meant to them.

“This is the Keely Lab, it’s all affected by who she is,” said Joseph Szulczewski, a graduate student who works at the lab, in an interview with a Channel 3 television reporter.

Her prolific research career, which included at least 52 publications, according to her lab’s website, was currently focused on certain signaling events in cell differentiation and transformation; understanding molecular mechanisms underlying breast cancer risk due to breast density; and molecular signaling events related to cell interactions with the extracellular matrix.

Her academic and research leadership roles also included appointments as the co-leader of the Tumor Microenvironment Group at the UW Carbone Cancer Center, co-principal investigator at the Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation, and an affiliate appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

In addition to her research and academic record, Keely was also a wonderful colleague and friend, according to Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health.

“She leaves behind a remarkable legacy as an outstanding scientist, dedicated mentor, strong academic leader, and caring and committed person,” he said.

A celebration of Keely’s life will be held July 10 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St. Services will begin at 3:30 p.m.