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News, Special Recognition, and Awards

Dr. Sam Pappas to receive the Sharon K. Wadina Chair in Sarcoma Research

Sharon K. Wadina is donating $1 million to the Medical College of Wisconsin for research in the Division of Surgical Oncology that advances the understanding and treatment of sarcoma tumors, one of the rarest forms of cancer.

Her gift establishes a research fund and endows the Sharon K. Wadina Chair in Sarcoma Research, to be held by Sam Pappas, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgical Oncology.

Mrs. Wadina was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma in the summer of 2010. She says her experience has inspired her to make this gift to expand research and develop innovative treatments to improve outcomes for patients.

“When you get diagnosed and realize there is almost nothing out there for treatment options, and you think you have limited time, it makes you think about your plans,” Wadina said. “Because of my situation, because of the lack of research, because of the reputation of the MCW Cancer Center and because of Dr. Pappas, I wanted to support this. I feel I’ve gotten excellent care.”

As a Medical College surgical faculty member since 2007, Dr. Pappas is known for his expertise in surgical oncology. He is investigating how the molecular profile of sarcoma tumors can identify patients most likely to benefit from alternative chemotherapy regimens. The use of more advanced molecular profiling of individual tumors might allow for a tailored treatment regimen based on the specific characteristics of the individual tumor.

Dr. Pappas will use Wadina’s gift to launch a pilot study to gather data on molecular profiling. Having an internal funding source available for these kinds of projects is critical to advancing medical discovery and new treatments for patients.

“We are very fortunate to have Mrs. Wadina’s support, and will be working diligently on this research so that we can promptly report results,” Dr. Pappas said. “Sarcomas are rare tumors, and research to date has not made significant impact on the management of sarcomas before and after surgery. We need to know more about the biology of these tumors to enhance current and future treatment approaches.”

As a cancer affecting a relatively small number of patients, investigations into sarcoma attract fewer research dollars than other diseases. In cases like this, private philanthropy is an important source of funding that can uncover new patient treatments. Academic medical centers are ideal settings for this sort of research, as physicians and surgeons can work closely with basic scientists on problems observed directly in the clinic and during patient encounters.

“In addition to being a significant form of recognition, endowed chairs, like the Sharon K. Wadina Chair, provide vital resources for research endeavors,” said T. Clark Gamblin, MD, MS, the Stuart D. Wilson Professor and Chief of Surgical Oncology. “The Sharon K. Wadina Chair in Sarcoma Research is incredibly important as Dr. Pappas strives to further our understanding of tumor biology and define more effective treatments for sarcoma patients. An endowed chair is an unusual opportunity for an assistant professor, and we are indebted to Mrs. Wadina for her vision and gift.”

Before having her two sons, Mrs. Wadina worked as a nurse in a VA hospital in California and at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. Her husband, the late Gerald Wadina, MD, was a 1965 Marquette/Medical College of Wisconsin alumnus and served as an Associate Clinical Professor at the Medical College for more than 20 years.


Sam Pappas, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgical Oncology, Sharon K. Wadina,
T. Clark Gamblin, MD, MS, the Stuart D. Wilson Professor and Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology
© 2014 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 09/04/2014