UNMC for the record, March 4, 2022

Moorthy Ponnusamy, PhD, and and Surinder Batra, PhD

Study a stepping stone against pancreatic cancer

UNMC researchers recently published research on pancreatic cancer in the journal Gastroenterology, which is respected as the most prominent journal in the field.

The research teams were led by Moorthy Ponnusamy, PhD, associate professor in the UNMC Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Surinder Batra, PhD, professor and chairman of the department.

Dr. Ponnusamy’s study has been focusing on identifying the role of cancer stem cells in the progression and metastasis of pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Batra’s lab focused on understanding the molecular mechanism for the progression and metastasis of pancreatic cancer.

The article, which was published in December, is titled "Pancreatic Tumor Microenvironment Factor Promotes Cancer Stemness via SPP1-CD44 Axis."

According to the article, tumor-microenvironment factors and cancer stem cells play a critical role in the aggressiveness of pancreatic cancer. Cancer stem cells are a small subset of the population that induce aggressive pancreatic cancer initiation, progression, drug-resistance and metastasis. Therefore, identifying the mechanisms for cross-talk between cancer-associated fibroblasts and cancer stem cells may improve targeted therapy for pancreatic cancer. However, researchers said, the degree to which other tumor-microenvironment factors promote stemness remains unexplored.

The research found a novel mechanism between cancer-associated fibroblasts and enrichment of stemness population via an axis in pancreatic cancer. Such knowledge would be instrumental in deciphering new stem-cell-specific drug that targets cancer stem cells and metastasis for pancreatic cancer.

Fleece blanket drive wraps up successfully

The UNMC community made 150 fleece tie blankets — 50 more than originally planned — for at-risk youth through a drive organized by Fostering the Future.

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Project Harmony was among the organizations receiving fleece blankets.

 "I am liking the happy spirit this drive is bringing — uniting faculty, staff, and students to do good for the community," said Jessica Semin, DNP, assistant professor in the UNMC College of Nursing and Fostering the Future faculty advisor. "I think it is a powerful message that we can come together to do good work outside of our typical roles in the midst of the pandemic."

In early February, Fostering the Future, an Office of Community Engagement legacy project, invited people to pick up a supply kit and put together a blanket.

Fostering the Future is a student-led, faculty-supported interprofessional organization at UNMC. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for at-risk youth and the health of the community by providing resources, education, leadership opportunities and impactful personal experiences to create healthy, positive and sustainable futures for everyone.

The fleece tie blankets were donated to two local non-profit organizations — Project Everlast and Project Harmony — and the Omaha Police Department to benefit at-risk youth in the community.

Retirements announced

Betty Shestak, of the UNMC College of Dentistry’s administration office, will retire on April 14 after 40 years at UNMC.

Shestak, who started at UNMC on April 9, 1982, is the longest-tenured employee among the retirees announced by the UNMC Department of Human Resources for March, April and May. Other longtime employees on the list include the UNMC College of Dentistry’s Deborah Merritt, who will retire on May 13 after more than 32 years (start date Oct. 10, 1989), Veronica Harris of UNMC Printing Services, who retired Feb. 11 after almost 32 years (start date March 9, 1990) and Stacey Goodrich, a UNMC Department of Family Medicine volunteer, who retired Feb. 7 after more than 31 years at UNMC.

Other retirees announced by the department:

  • Jennifer Lederer, of the Lions Eye Bank, retired March 1 (start date Jan. 4, 1993)
  • Cheryl Williams, MD, UNMC Department of Radiology, retired March 2 (start date June 5, 1995)
  • Barbara Johnson, UNMC Department of Pathology and Microbiology, retired Feb. 2 (start date Dec. 20, 1999)
  • Bradley Safford, UNMC Facilities-Management and Planning, retired Jan. 14 (start date June 19, 2000)
  • Robert Schmida, UNMC College of Nursing, retired Feb. 11 (start date Jan. 12, 2004)
  • Marcia Bliss, UNMC College of Dentistry, retired Feb. 11 (start date Oct. 31, 2005)
  • Sarah Iwanski, UNMC Department of Internal Medicine-Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, will retire April 1 (start date Dec. 18, 2006).

1 comment

  1. Jawed Siddiqui says:

    Congratulations Drs. Moorthy and Batra.

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