Renowned Expert in Cancer Disparities Presents Blass Lecture

By Susan Van Dusen

Although Blass died in 2005, her influence lives on at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute through an endowed lecture series she established to provide UAMS scientists the opportunity to interact with some of the world’s leading genetics researchers.

Held Oct. 19, the Elizabeth Weitzenhoffer Blass Lecture in Cancer Genetics was presented online by Steven R. Patierno, Ph.D., deputy director of Duke Cancer Center and an internationally recognized expert for his research addressing the multilevel complexities of cancer disparities.

Titled “RNA Splicing and Untapped Molecular Targets in Precision Oncology and Cancer Disparities,” Patierno’s presentation addressed the factors surrounding cancer disparities, including social and environmental, lifestyle, structural and biological.

“The unequal burden of cancer among racially and ethnically diverse minorities, as well as those who are medically vulnerable and underserved, is a problem at all levels: local, regional, national and global,” Patierno said to the group of about 75 participants, including Blass’ daughter, Buff Blass, who continues to support the endowment’s efforts.

Patierno earned a doctorate in molecular pharmacology from the Graduate School of Biomedical Science at the University of Texas Health Science Center-MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

He joined Duke University in 2012 and serves as a professor of medicine, pharmacology and cancer biology, and family medicine and community health.

Blass was a founding member of the UAMS Foundation Fund Board, serving as chair during 1983-84. She led the first $1 million fundraising drive, which was followed by chairing the $7 million drive to build Phase I of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. She also chaired the UAMS “Invest in Life Campaign,” which raised $65 million, exceeding its goal by $2 million.

Blass continued to be a member of the University of Arkansas Foundation Fund Board from 1992 until her death in 2005.