State to match $15 million in funding for fight against pancreatic cancer

The glowing, colorful Search Tower at the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center
Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center

By John Keenan, UNMC and Connie White, University of Nebraska Foundation

Support from state, community puts Nebraska in forefront of battle against deadly disease

The University of Nebraska Medical Center, Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska Foundation have successfully secured the funds necessary to qualify for the state match funding of $15 million for the Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence, university officials announced this week.

“With their continued investments in cancer research, the Nebraska philanthropic community has shown once again that they are unmatched in their vision and generosity toward this state,” said Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, chancellor of UNMC. “Through their support, the medical center’s history of impactful public/private partnerships continues. Our goal is a cure for pancreatic cancer, and this support sets us strongly on that path.”

The state match funding will enable campus leadership to build systems and programs of international significance and reputation; recruit world-class physicians and scientists, including those in immunobiology, cancer metabolism and bioinformatics; and pioneer novel projects in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of pancreas cancer.

Dr. Gold thanked the members of the Nebraska Legislature, especially former state Sen. Mark Kolterman, for their support of UNMC’s efforts.  Kolterman was a legislative champion for the legislation – later signed by then-Gov. Pete Ricketts – for the matching state funds.

Sen. Kolterman, whose wife, Suzanne, died of pancreatic cancer in 2017, said the match was “wonderful news.”

With the support from the state and the community, he said, UNMC has put the right people in the right positions, pointing to leaders such as Sunil Hingorani, MD, PhD, the Nancy Armitage Pancreas Cancer Clinical Research Presidential Chair and director of the Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence; Tony Hollingsworth, PhD, the Hugh & Jane Hunt Chair in Cancer Research at the Eppley Institute; and Kelsey Klute, MD, associate professor of hematology/oncology at UNMC and medical director for the Cancer Risk and Prevention Clinic at Nebraska Medicine.

“We can make a difference,” Sen. Kolterman said, pointing to the medical center’s top researchers and clinicians. “Nebraska is going to be on the cutting edge of a cure or an early detection method, that is the most important thing. We have the best of the best on our team.”

Dr. Hingorani, who became the Nancy Armitage Pancreas Cancer Clinical Research Presidential Chair and the first director of the center in 2022, said the center’s goal is nothing short of a complete transformation of what is considered “state of the art” for the early detection, chemoprevention and treatment of this devastating disease.

“The funds provided by the state of Nebraska,  as well as the generous contributions of community leaders and philanthropists who have been touched by this disease, makes a powerful statement about the aspirations and the expectations of the leadership of this state and its people for the Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence,” he said.

Although the medical center already provides the highest level of cancer care in Nebraska, Dr. Hingorani said, “the unprecedented scale of this extraordinary partnership between the public and private sectors in the state now sets the bar even higher, making clear that ‘good’ is not ‘good enough’ when greatness is within reach.”

Kenneth Cowan, MD, PhD, director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, also expressed his appreciation.

“We are grateful for this support which will enable our pancreatic cancer research team to develop new therapies for patients across the state and beyond,” Dr. Cowan said.

As evidence the center’s efforts already are attracting national attention, Dr. Hingorani pointed to recognition earlier this year by the National Pancreas Foundation for both outstanding clinical care and scientific innovation, as well as the Canopy Collective Learning Health Network’s naming of the center as a member site for superior multidisciplinary patient care.

“The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center houses one of the first and largest in the nation early detection and surveillance programs for patients at high risk of developing pancreas cancer, the first rapid autopsy program in the country for pancreas cancer patients, and also boasts deep experience in basic science discovery for this disease,” he said. “The challenge now is to unify these efforts and integrate them into a larger, coordinated program with the defined goal of finding a cure.

“The best is yet to come.”

The philanthropic gifts made to the Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence were made as part of Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future, a historic effort to engage at least 150,000 benefactors to give $3 billion to support the University of Nebraska.

About UNMC

We are Nebraska Medicine and UNMC. Our mission is to lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.

About the University of Nebraska Foundation

The University of Nebraska Foundation grows relationships and resources that enable the University of Nebraska to change lives and save lives. During the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2022, a record 60,571 donors gave $300.6 million to the foundation to aid the University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, University of Nebraska Medical Center and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine, and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture. The foundation raises more than $7 for every $1 spent. Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future is its current campaign, with a goal to raise $3 billion from 150,000 unique benefactors to support the University of Nebraska. More information is at

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