Meet UNMC Scientist Laureate Surinder Batra, Ph.D.

April 30, 2013

Image with caption: Surinder Batra, Ph.D.

Surinder Batra, Ph.D.

NOTE: This profile is part of a series to highlight the 16 researchers who will be honored April 30 at a ceremony for UNMC's 2012 Scientist Laureate, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator Award recipients.

  • Name: Surinder Batra, Ph.D.
  • Title: Professor and chairman, department of biochemistry and molecular biology, College of Medicine; associate director of training and education, Eppley Cancer Institute
  • Joined UNMC: October 1996
  • Hometown: Ambala Cantt, Haryana, India

Describe your research briefly in layman's terms.
Pancreatic cancer (adenocarcinoma) is a daunting challenge for modern medicine. Once diagnosed, it is one of the few malignancies with nearly 100 percent mortality. The incidence and age-adjusted mortality rate are roughly equal, underscoring the aggressive nature of this disease. While smoking and chronic pancreatitis increase the risk of this disease, the majority of patients have no identifiable risk factors. Research in my laboratory is focused at understanding the etiology of pancreatic cancer, particularly, on components of the tumor microenvironment that have complex interactions with each other and with the cancer cells. Specifically, mucins (MUCs) are being investigated from early stages to the spread of the disease using genetically-engineered animal models and human tissues archived from the unique Rapid Autopsy Program (RAP) at UNMC.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care?
It contributes through the development of biomarkers for early diagnosis and prognosis of pancreatic and other GI cancers. We're testing blood samples for specificity and sensitivity toward early diagnosis/prognosis. We're initiating Phase I/II clinical trials for therapeutic evaluation of new targets for interventions in preclinical and clinical studies. And, gaining a better understanding of the microenvironment of the pancreas, which serves as an inert scaffold for the tumor cells and acts as a possibly equal "partner-in-crime" in the process of neoplastic transformation.

What is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you, professional or personal?
You should have perseverance, work hard and keep patience. I waited for a publication for 15 years (1991-2006) and finally published in a major journal of cancer, "Oncogene."

List three things few people know about you.

  • I have two boys age 26 (Rishi) and 21 (Rahul).
  • I love and have updated knowledge on Bollywood music and films.
  • I enjoy watching college basketball, particularly my favorite college basketball team, the Duke Blue Devils.

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