A Husker student recently jotted a note of thanks for the Husker Pantry, calling it a “life saver.”

“I will always be thankful for the help I was given in my time of need,” the student went on to share. “It became difficult to support myself when I had to prioritize school. When the decision is either to pay rent or eat, food can feel like a luxury.”

This week the University of Nebraska–Lincoln joins its Big Ten institutional partners for One Big Week now through Sept. 18. The weeklong event challenges university communities to harness school pride for student support, including support for the students who depend on the services provided by the Husker Pantry.

Nebraska alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students can participate by making a gift to the Husker Pantry program that provides year-round assistance to students. Gifts may be made through Saturday, Sept. 18.

“Your support of any amount for the Husker Pantry during One Big Week is truly appreciated,” said Megan Patel, student money management and Husker Pantry program manager. “The pantry makes a difference in the lives of our students every day, so thank you for taking this opportunity to help.”

The Husker Pantry program relies on donations to keep the shelves stocked so students do not suffer from hunger. More than 30% of Husker students already have or will be facing food insecurity and hunger at some point this year.

With its locations on both City Campus and East Campus, the Husker Pantry is a one-stop campus resource to assist students with food, personal hygiene items, cleaning products and school supplies. Husker Pantry serves more than 150 students each week.

To learn more and to make a gift during One Big Week, go to fundraise.nufoundation.org/onebigweek.

“You have no idea how elated I was when I picked up food today,” wrote another student who has used the services of the Husker Pantry. “Thank you, all, for everything you do.”

Lopers everywhere are invited to participate in the inaugural University of Nebraska at Kearney giving day from noon to noon on Oct. 6-7.

A new addition to homecoming week, One Day for UNK: 24 Hours of Loper Giving is a virtual day of giving and engagement in support of UNK students, uniting Lopers from across the nation and world in their generosity.

Here’s how you can be a part of One Day for UNK:

—Give: Visit givingday.unk.edu to help reach 515 gifts, one gift for each acre of UNK’s beautiful campus. Gifts may be made as early as Sept. 7.

—Help spread the word: Share your support and encourage others to give using #OneDayforUNK on social media.

—Share your memories and wisdom: Visit unkfund.org/shareyourstory to tell about your UNK experience and share advice with current students.

—Become a One Day for UNK Sponsor: Support UNK students and encourage others to do the same. Learn more online or contact Teresa Brown at for information.

When Lopers unite on Oct. 6-7, great things will happen.

The University of Nebraska Foundation announced a record $343 million in philanthropic gifts and commitments in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2021, marking the second consecutive year of more than $300 million in new funds committed to benefit the University of Nebraska.

Gifts were directed to the University of Nebraska according to donors’ designations. Alumni, friends of the university, foundations and corporations make up the 46,639 donors who gave during the year.

“The University of Nebraska is in a remarkable position of strength as we look to the future, thanks to private and public partners whose investment in their university truly makes all things possible,” said University of Nebraska System President Ted Carter. “Our generous and visionary donors extend the university’s reach even further, helping to make higher education a reality for thousands of students and growing the impact of our research and service. The entire university family is grateful to our philanthropic partners for all they do for our 52,000 students.”

Private support given created new scholarships, created faculty chairs and professorships for the recruitment and retention of top faculty, provided support for academic and athletic programs, furthered research, helped care for patients, and constructed facilities for teaching, research and service. Among the areas that benefited from private support this year were:

Engineering – Gifts were received to create scholarships and expand facilities for the next generation of engineers. College of Engineering Dean Lance Pérez said the investment being made to construct Kiewit Hall represents the first time in a generation that the university will have a dedicated facility for teaching engineering. The university offers the state’s only nationally accredited engineering degree program. A new chair in biological systems engineering was created to recognize and support the work of IANR Professor Angie Pannier, who researches DNA vaccines, tissue engineering and gene delivery systems. The chair provides an annual stipend to be used by Pannier and the students in her lab exploring new research.

Agriculture – The donation of 2,147 acres of ranchland in Hayes County will be used for outdoor learning, emphasizing range management and beef cattle production. Dean of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture Larry Gossen said the gift will help students learn the care of cattle and how to manage healthy and productive pastureland. On the University of Nebraska–Lincoln East Campus, the landmark CY Thompson Library was transformed into the technology-rich Dinsdale Family Learning Commons. The building offers active and quiet places for students to study, and the second floor houses the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program. Michael Boehm, vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the Dinsdale Commons is a cornerstone of East Campus and a powerful reminder of the university’s commitment to IANR and Nebraska agriculture.

Science, Health and Medicine – Several faculty support chairs were created to recruit and retain top faculty, among them the first chair ever in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, a chair in global health security, a chair in health care analytics, a chair in physics, and additional support for existing chairs in cardiology and pediatrics. Scholarships were created for students enrolled in the accelerated nursing degree program, and research gifts were received to support pediatric cancer. Gifts were received to support the construction of facilities such as the Davis Global Center, the Munroe-Meyer Institute and to redevelop Durham Science Center. Donors supported the NExT project, a public-private partnership to create a federal, all-hazard health security disaster response space that leverages the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s and Nebraska Medicine’s experience and leadership in infectious diseases.

Business and Law – Mammel Hall at the University of Nebraska at Omaha was expanded with the addition of the Rod Rhoden Innovation Center; at UNL, six faculty chairs were created in the College of Business and renovations began on the College of Law Library.

Arts and Humanities – Gifts were received to support Sheldon Museum of Art, the Great Plains Art Museum, the International Quilt Museum and photojournalism at UNL, and the Samuel Bak Academic Learning Center at UNO.

Athletics – Gifts were received to support UNL’s GoB1G and Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Adventures program and to support the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s football and soccer team facilities at Cope Stadium.

Student support was a priority for many donors, and more than 10,000 students across the university system received privately funded scholarship awards in the past year. Gifts were given to support students in nearly every major and college. Among them were the “Access to Exceptional” fund created to benefit students at UNO; a scholarship fund for students from Creighton, Nebraska, enrolled at UNK; a scholarship fund for students majoring in English who attend UNK; and funds to support those enrolled in the Teacher Scholars Academy at UNL, UNO and UNK; as well as many others.

“Many of our donors understand that a University of Nebraska degree can literally change the trajectory of someone’s life, and they have a strong desire to make those degrees accessible and affordable to more people,” said University of Nebraska Foundation President and CEO Brian Hastings. “Others want to support the life-saving work that our academic medical center does every day, but also recognize their global leadership through the COVID-19 global pandemic. This is the 85th anniversary of the foundation’s partnership with the University of Nebraska, and we could not be prouder to have this anniversary marked by a record-breaking year.”

The University of Nebraska Foundation grows relationships and resources that enable the University of Nebraska to change lives and save lives. It is ranked among the top 20 public universities for fundraising and in the top 25 for endowed assets. During the foundation’s last fiscal year, 46,639 donors gave $343 million to aid UNK, UNO, UNL and NCTA, UNMC and its clinical partner Nebraska Medicine, as well as university wide institutes and affiliates. More than 99% of all foundation assets are restricted to a specific use. More information is available at nufoundation.org.

A Conversation with University of Nebraska graduate Eartha Johnson

Eartha Johnson of Houston, Texas, has a passion for helping others, whether as a business professional, volunteer or donor. She is founder and CEO of Risk Mitigation Worldwide (formerly LegalWatch, Inc.), an award-winning company that trains corporate executives on how to prevent lawsuits, regulatory sanctions and criminal indictments. Eartha graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1983 and the Nebraska College of Law in 1990. She then worked for Exxon and other companies before starting her own business. She is a trustee of the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Share a little about your background.

I was raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha. While in college, I worked for Northwestern Bell and AT&T. After earning my undergraduate degree, I continued my career with AT&T. Nine years later I enrolled in the University of Nebraska College of Law on a full scholarship and accepted a position with Exxon in Houston upon graduation. Today, I’m CEO of Risk Mitigation Worldwide, a company I formed in 1997 after practicing law for Exxon and working for the United States Department of Justice and Kutak Rock, an international law firm.

What experiences at Nebraska best prepared you for your career?

The education and experiences I gained from attending the University of Nebraska and the University of Nebraska College of Law are priceless and have enabled me to compete and succeed in the workplace, business and in life. I cannot overstate how the quality of the education I obtained at the college prepared me to be an astute business owner and leader.

Under then-Dean Harvey Perlman, students were provided a customized skills program designed to ensure we succeeded. I credit the program to my academic success at the University of Nebraska College of Law and at the University of Iowa College of Law as a visiting student.  I did not fully appreciate the quality of education we received at Nebraska until I attended the University of Iowa, where I was not only able to compete but soared, earning the highest marks on exams and for classes.

Participating in Moot Court competitions, Trial Advocacy and the Legal Clinic enabled me to develop and sharpen my advocacy skills. My participation in student government associations helped me to understand the significance of exercising discipline and the need for order. Most importantly, I was introduced to politics and quickly learned its impact on practically every decision in life. I left law school fully equipped with everything I needed to succeed, which is evident from the things I have been able to accomplish.

Some of my accomplishments include being named as a Woman of Distinction by the Women Business Enterprise National Council and have served as president of the Houston Lawyers Association and chair of the African American Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.

What influenced your decision to pursue law and start your own company?

My enrollment in law school was a dream delayed. At the age of 27, with young children, I began to pursue a career in law. Although my dream was to practice public service law, I accepted a position with Exxon that was both conducive to a family environment and also afforded me the opportunity to do numerous things to help people who could not afford to hire attorneys. Later, after I decided to be a stay-at-home mom, I started my own company. Almost immediately and unexpectedly, the business thrived.

Why is elevating the careers and voices of women and minorities so important?

As a woman and minority, I have witnessed firsthand the benefits of promoting women and minorities and giving them a voice. I cannot count the times I showed up somewhere, and my opinion and presence seemed to have been discounted before I uttered a word. Time and again, I have been able to win over colleagues, clients and foes with my insight, perspectives and exercise of diplomacy. All women and minorities need to have the door opened and a chance to be heard. It is only by giving women and minorities a seat at the table that can we truly level the playing field.

How are companies stronger when their workforces are more diverse?

Companies are stronger when they have input that captures all cultures, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. You can provide the best service or develop the best widget only when you truly understand how your service or product will impact every potential stakeholder. When you don’t have the right people at the table, you risk excluding people, characteristics and attributions based on the lack of knowledge and firsthand input. Without having representation of all perspectives at the table, it is impossible for a company to rise to its fullest potential.

What one accomplishment are you most proud of?

Although my business has received numerous awards — I’ve gotten standing ovations from keynote presentations and served on numerous boards, what I am most proud of is that I have lived my life being true to myself and treated people with dignity, respect and compassion and have strived to demonstrate the highest of integrity in all things.

What has it meant to you to give back to your alma mater through time and financial support?

Giving, to me, means when I die my life will not have been in vain. It means I did something to help someone other than my family, friends and myself. It means I tried to be the change I wanted to see. And, most significantly, it means that every year one University of Nebraska College of Law student will not have to worry about tuition.

Why should other Nebraska graduates consider doing so?

I give, in general, because I believe that to whom much is given, much is required and, specifically to the College of Law, because it is the primary reason I have the access, contacts and resources to help others. Giving is a way to pay forward the education that enabled you to be where you are today.

The Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation, the charitable organization powered by Dunkin’ and its franchisees, guests, employees and partners has given $5,000 to Nebraska Medicine. The gift will enable the pediatrics department to add a variety of new in-room entertainment and engagement options for children during their treatment and recovery.

The gift was made possible through the Dunkin’ Iced Coffee Day fundraising event that took place at Dunkin’ restaurants nationwide on May 26. On that day, a portion of all sales of iced coffee beverages benefited the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation and its mission to bring joy to children battling hunger or illness.

These contributions were then distributed back to communities through various organizations such as Nebraska Medicine and its philanthropic partner, the University of Nebraska Foundation.

The Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation partners with food banks, children’s hospitals and nonprofit organizations to fund joyful environments and joyful experiences for kids when they need it most. Since 2006, the foundation has given more than $30 million to hundreds of national and local charities across the country.

Nebraska Medicine and its research and education partner, the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), share the same mission: 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. People come from around the country and the world for the unique expertise available from Nebraska Medicine.

For information on ways to support Nebraska Medicine and those it serves, visit nufoundation.org/give/nebraska-medicine or contact Lisa Anibal at the University of Nebraska Foundation at lisa.anibal@nufoundation.org or 402-502-4108.

Food was always a big part of life in the Thai household. For Dorothy Thai, a senior at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, making food with her family was a way to explore a passion and experiment with new flavors.

“I got into cooking when I was really young,” Thai said. “My parents cook a lot as opposed to going out — it’s cheaper.”

Thai’s family did not have a lot of money when she was growing up, so trying out new restaurants was mostly not an option. Instead, Thai explored new foods by working on recipes at home.

Thai’s parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam, own a small grocery store in Lincoln, so food has long been married to business in Thai’s mind. She imagined starting her own type of food business, although she wasn’t sure what it could be. But she knew she wanted to help people somehow, and she was determined to make it happen.

“I had this dream for a really, really long time,” she said. “I worked super hard at school. I said, ‘I’m going to become a businesswoman someday. Nothing is going to stop me.’”

Thai knew she had more to learn and discover before she could realize her goals, so she applied to the food science and technology program at UNL. Food science majors prepare for careers at food processing firms or government agencies developing new food products, managing food plants or conducting food research and marketing.

Courses can range from biochemistry to cereal technology to microbiology of fermented foods. Thai knew she had the creativity and business mindset she needed to start her own company, and a degree in food science and technology would provide the scientific know-how to edge out her competition.

But Thai’s family could not afford to send her to university. She knew the only way she could get there was with the help of a scholarship, so she worked even harder to make sure she qualified for every form of assistance available to her.

Thai first received a two-year scholarship to attend Southeast Community College, where she completed her prerequisites. She then received four additional scholarships to attend UNL, including the prestigious University of Nebraska Board of Regents scholarship that helps cover tuition.

Thai also received a particularly meaningful scholarship from the oldest scholarship fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation, the Edward J. Cornish Scholarship.

Cornish was a UNL graduate who went on to become the CEO of the National Lead Company, and the fund he established has provided scholarships since 1937. Today its impact continues to be felt in the realized dreams and ambitions of countless students who have received support from the fund over the last 84 years.

“If I could personally thank Edward Cornish, I would tell him, first of all, thank you for putting your time and money toward education for so many future students like me,” Thai told the foundation. “And secondly, thank you for entrusting your funds to a university that has the heart to look past the cultural and ethnic differences that continue to divide this world today. UNL has so much diversity that I am proud to be a part of. I am forever grateful for everyone who has made my education possible and that of so many others.”

For Thai, receiving scholarship support means getting to pursue her goal to create food products that help people — whether it’s through reducing packaging waste to help the environment or giving back a portion of profits to communities around the world.

“I never thought I could do that much,” Thai said. “All I knew how to do was cooking and baking — that was the only thing I was really good at. But now I want to create a whole brand, a whole company. I have a lot of big plans with my degree.”

If you’re interested in starting an endowed scholarship fund that could help students obtain a University of Nebraska education over the next 85 years and longer, contact us today at info@nufoundation.org or 800-432-3216.


Four brothers are making a difference at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and in the community of Creighton, Nebraska, by establishing the Falter “4” UNK Scholarship. All four brothers attended UNK when it was Kearney State College and credit it for the lasting impact it had on their lives.

“Our hope is that this scholarship will open the door to someone that wants to pursue the UNK life that might not have thought that was possible before,” said Shannon Falter.

The four in the name is the foundation of the scholarship:

“We chose the business and technology area for the scholarship not only because three of us graduated with degrees in those fields, but because over the course of our careers we have witnessed the importance of the continued emphasis on financial literacy and technology, regardless of what career you choose to pursue,” said Dana Falter.

The brothers are excited about giving students the opportunity to attend their alma mater.

“It’s exciting to know that we are creating a legacy and giving back to the community. It feels great!” said Rod Falter.

It gives the brothers the opportunity to give back to the students at Creighton High School and northeast Nebraska while promoting UNK.

“This scholarship really is about giving back to your community and helping younger people achieve success,” said Todd Falter.

Dana Falter’s hopes are that this scholarship “will assist students in creating their own memories and receive a great education like we did.”

To explore ways to help the University of Nebraska at Kearney please see the UNK support page. For information about establishing a student scholarship fund or other fund to support any area of UNK, please contact Lucas Dart at lucas.dart@nufoundation.org or 308-698-5272.

In the late 1800s, the world was small for women. It primarily revolved around the home, and desires to study were typically considered appropriate only if they brought women closer to finding a husband.

So when Rachel Holloway Lloyd, Ph.D., took the position of associate professor of chemistry at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1887, the reverberations were profound. Lloyd, who had received her doctorate at the University of Zurich, excelled in a field that was considered entirely outside a woman’s scope.

Through her example, she inspired other women to study chemistry and helped grow the departments at UNL and around the country. She also helped build the reputation of UNL as a progressive, welcoming institution that nurtured women in their ambitions.

Lloyd’s story is one of the most meaningful in the history of the chemistry department at UNL. But up until recently, few people on campus knew of her.

“I was amazed that she had been so well known during the time that she lived, and even a couple decades afterwards, but then she had been totally forgotten,” said Mark Griep, who along with his wife, Marjorie Mikasen, is a member of the Burnett Society.

Griep, also a professor of chemistry at UNL, began researching Lloyd and learned that she was the first woman professor of chemistry in the U.S. and one of the first in the world. She had been recruited to Lincoln by Hudson H. Nicholson, the chair and sole faculty member of the chemistry department at the time.

“She had so many obstacles to overcome … she’s an inspiration to me, and that’s why I kept digging,” Griep said. “I wanted to make sure no one forgot about her again.”

Griep did extensive research, poring over microfiche articles and scientific journals. He discovered Lloyd was instrumental in the development of the beet sugar industry in Nebraska and helped the state become a national leader in beet sugar agriculture. Lloyd also found nuggets like this one from a letter written by Nicholson describing Lloyd’s presentation to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture:

“Now I suppose that some of those men labored under the impression that a woman and a wash tub ought to be inseparable. At any rate they seemed surprised that a woman could calmly walk up on the platform and read a scientific paper. You should have seen the thrill of life that ran through the assembly … At the close of the paper they applauded to the echo — none of the rest of us received that.”

Griep said the welcoming atmosphere that invited Lloyd to UNL in 1887 still exists in the department of chemistry. Griep came to UNL in 1990 and has had a successful career studying antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Griep knows much of his department’s success is thanks to those who built it. That’s why he and his wife planned an estate gift to support both the legacy of Lloyd and the person who had the vision to hire her, Nicholson, as well as future chemistry professors at UNL. Through a generous planned gift, Griep and Mikasen established a faculty development fund that will provide seed funding for chemistry professors to pursue their research ideas.

“So much good can come from people directing their assets or their resources toward institutions that surround them, that make their life what it is,” Mikasen said, “and for us the university was a natural fit.”

The fund is named in honor of Lloyd and Nicholson as a nod to their impact on the department.

“They used their imaginations to make this department,” Mikasen said. “It’s here today, and it started with them. So I think we need to remember that. We need to remember the founders of things.”

Griep said he encourages people to think of the impact they can make on those who come after them, just as he considers the impact of Lloyd on all those whose lives she touched. And they were many. In the descriptions of Lloyd that Griep uncovered, she was beloved by her students and inspired passions for chemistry. When she died in 1900, the acting chancellor at UNL addressed students with these words of Lloyd’s impact:

“There still lingers on this campus like a sweet perfume the memory of her devoted life. It is your good fortune to be here where these memories still influence your lives.”

Robert Dewaele is an agricultural crop insurance claims adjuster and accomplished sculptor who grew up on a farm near Crescent, Iowa. His interest in sculpting began in high school, and he continued his studies at Iowa Western Community College and Bellevue University.

Robert began publicly exhibiting his work in 1984 and currently has exhibitions at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery in Omaha and the Burkholder Project in Lincoln. His work is part of numerous private collections as well. He had a working studio at the Hot Shops Art Center in Omaha for 13 years, until the passing of his wife, Diana.

After enduring a mental health misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder for more than 12 years from several mental health practitioners, Robert was fortunate to have met a therapist working for the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. This was the first person who correctly diagnosed Robert with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. Receiving the correct diagnosis was transformative for him.

Being acutely aware of the need for accurate diagnosis and treatments for autism spectrum disorders, Robert has established a planned gift — the Robert S. Dewaele MMI Preparation for Resilience and Achievement Fund — with the idea of helping others on the autism spectrum achieve their full potential.

The following Q&A was conducted with Robert this spring.

What was the first job you ever had?    

I weeded soybeans for my neighbor at about age 12.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you? 

While not direct advice, one of my first supervisors noted that the best thing that ever happened to me was that my father had taught me how to work. The supervisor went on to say that he could train anyone how to do a job, but he couldn’t instill a work ethic, which comes from within.

Who is someone from history you would want to invite to a dinner party, and why? 

I’d invite former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In spite of suffering from polio and its effects, he was able to take the reins of power during one of our most tumultuous periods and succeed in solving problems associated with the Great Depression and World War II. I have great admiration for this man because he was able to inspire and motivate our citizens in ways that are sorely missing today.

What is the first question you would ask that guest from history?

How did you keep your focus in the midst of seemingly insurmountable problems?

What is the one song you would be sure to play to set the mood at the dinner party? 

“Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty.

What is the question that you like to be asked the most? 

It’s when people inquire about the reason and inspiration for my artwork.

Who has influenced your life for the good, and what have you done to help others lately?   

My therapist was able to correctly diagnose my Asperger’s/autism spectrum condition when numerous other mental health medical professionals had failed to do so. If this condition hadn’t been correctly diagnosed, the negative effects on my life would probably have been even more severe. I’ll be volunteering my artistic abilities with the Trailblazer Program (at UNMC’s Munroe-Meyer Institute) by teaching beginning sculpture, and I’ve helped an individual financially who lost his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why do you plan to leave a gift to the University of Nebraska in your estate? 

I wanted to make a direct contribution to the people who find themselves in a similar and possibly more difficult situation than myself. I have an acute recognition of the challenges that these people will face navigating life, so it’s my hope that the contribution will ease their way through life.

UNMC researchers have discovered a potential new therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer, detailed in a paper in a recent issue of the journal Gastroenterology.

The team established a new way to target pancreatic cancer cells by developing inhibitors that, when combined with existing chemotherapies, can diminish pancreatic cancer in mouse models. The discovery was a culmination of about seven years of work with collaborators from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Germany, India, China, Italy and Switzerland.

The research was funded primarily by a $2.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health and an Italian cancer research grant. Private support through gifts made to the University of Nebraska Foundation for pancreatic research has also attributed to the research team’s success.

Pancreatic cancer is a lethal malignancy with a five-year survival rate of less than 10%. Pancreatic cancer cells tend to reprogram how they feed themselves and are able to survive and grow under harsh conditions, said Pankaj Singh, PhD, professor in the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer at UNMC. Dr. Singh is the senior author of the paper.

“Our lab found that deleting the enzyme SIRT5 in pancreatic cancer cells accelerates tumor growth and correlates with poor survival in both pancreatic cancer patients and genetically engineered mouse models,” said Dr. Singh, who also is co-leader of the Cancer Biology Program at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. “The study provides the first evidence in support of activating SIRT5 as a therapeutic strategy.

“The ability to ‘turn on’ SIRT5 in pancreatic cancer cells inhibits tumor growth. Developing drugs that do this is the next step and will help diminish tumors in patients with low SIRT5 expression in the tumors,” Dr. Singh said.

The team used a public database to identify the role of SIRT5 in pancreatic cancer and generated new animal models to study its role in the disease. It also developed various cell line models and tissue-like structures, and it conducted various molecular and biochemical studies. The studies also used human tumor specimens.

Dr. Singh said SIRT5 deletion enhanced the formation of early tumor lesions in mice in response to inflammation and in response to mutations in the KRAS and p53 genes. KRAS belongs to a class of genes known as oncogenes and when mutated have the potential to cause normal cells to become cancerous. The p53 gene stops the formation of tumors.

“While mutations in the KRAS oncogene are the main driver for the disease, how KRAS drives healthy cells to become cancer cells is not fully understood,” he said. “Also, new therapies are very much in need to target the oncogenesis induced by KRAS.”

The study also identified the basis of how pancreatic cancer cells reroute the metabolic dependencies under conditions of nutrient deprivation in the tumors.

Dr. Singh said studies need to be conducted in human patients to evaluate the effectiveness of SIRT5 against pancreatic cancer.

UNMC collaborators included Fang Yu, PhD, Audrey Lazenby, MD, and Kamiya Mehla, PhD.

Gifts of any amount help support pancreatic cancer research and may be made online to the Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence Fund.

For more information about supporting cancer research, please contact cancer support specialists Ashley Christensen or Tom Thompson at 402-502-0300 or 800-432-3216.