Ken Cowan, MD, PhD
Kenneth H. Cowan, MD, PhD, recruits top cancer researchers to UNMC. His game plan: become a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center that leads the world in research, prevention and treatment.
The New York City native became director of the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases and of what now is known as the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in August 1999 after spending 21 years at the NCI, including 11 years as chief of the medical breast cancer section.
Since joining UNMC, Dr. Cowan has elevated clinical and basic research in both the institute and the cancer center, which is one of 65 NCI-designated cancer centers in the United States and the only cancer center in Nebraska to earn such distinction.
Dr. Cowan’s own research focuses on the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, specifically on the mechanisms of drug resistance, the biology of breast cancer and gene therapy. His clinical trials have focused on the identification of therapies to treat and prevent breast cancer.
In 2002, then-President George W. Bush appointed Dr. Cowan to a six-year term on the National Cancer Advisory Board to help shape cancer policy.
Sarah Thayer, MD, PhD
Associate director for clinical affairs
Chief of surgical oncology
Sarah Thayer, MD, PhD, an internationally recognized physician-scientist from Harvard Medical School, leads cancer surgery efforts and serves as the associate director for clinical affairs and physician-in-chief for the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. She also has been appointed Merle M. Musselman Centennial Professor of Surgery and chief of surgical oncology at UNMC.
Dr. Thayer comes to UNMC following a 13-year stint at Harvard Medical School and its teaching hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital. She has served as the W. Gerald Austen Scholar in Academic Surgery since 2002 and as director of the pancreatic cancer biology lab since 2008.
She has been continuously funded since 2003 and has been part of five National Institutes of Health research grants, three as overall principal investigator. Dr. Thayer currently has a $2 million pancreatic cancer research project funded by the NIH’s National Cancer Institute.
Dr. Thayer is an active surgeon with a clinical and research focus on pancreatic cancer. Clinically, she also specializes in cancers of the breast and gastrointestinal system.
Dr. Thayer arrived on the national scene with a 2003 publication in the journal Nature in which her work revealed the role of a developmental gene (Shh) as an early initiator in pancreatic cancer. Later, her group was the first to categorize and classify three distinct forms of pancreatic ductal lesions and their role in regeneration and cancer. In 2010, her team identified a novel ductal compartment and named them “pancreatic duct glands.”
Theresa Franco, MSN, RN
Cancer Care Service Line Vice President
Theresa Franco, MSN, RN strives to bring world-class care to cancer patients treated at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. Every decision she makes is with the patient in mind.
As Vice President of the Cancer Service Line at Nebraska Medicine, Franco is responsible for comprehensive cancer care program development. With over 30 years’ experience in cancer care, Franco is the Clinical Lead for the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. She has published, presented nationally and internationally on a variety of cancer program topics, and has served on several advisory boards to improve cancer care delivery. A member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Best Practices Committee since its inception, Franco also serves on the NCCN Board.