Alumna Aims to Advance the Fight Against Pancreatic and Prostate Cancer

Anita Artstein-Dunsay, AB ’65, knows firsthand what it’s like to lose loved ones to cancer. Her father died in 2003 after battling pancreatic cancer, and her husband of 28 years, Richard, died in 2017 after fighting prostate cancer. “This disease affects everyone, whether directly or through a friend or family member,” says the retired clinical psychologist, who lives in Carmel, California. “It’s so important that we continue gaining knowledge and one day find a cure, which would bring hope to so many.”

Anita Artstein-Dunsay’s contributions to the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center will help Washington University scientists study the underlying mechanisms of cancer. (Photo: Tony Avelar)

In order to accelerate progress toward curative discovery, Dr. Artstein-Dunsay has made a significant commitment through outright and estate gifts for basic science research at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. The endowed fund she established will support pancreatic and prostate cancer research, two areas of internationally recognized expertise at Siteman.

The NCI recently awarded Siteman investigators a highly competitive Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant in pancreatic cancer—one of just three in the country—to catalyze efforts to improve survival for patients with the deadliest form of the disease. Siteman also has a history of leadership in prostate cancer diagnosis, treatment, and research.

“Anita is truly dedicated to advancing the fight against cancer,” says Timothy Eberlein, MD, Siteman Cancer Center director and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor. “We are grateful for her tremendous contribution to research that will provide fundamental knowledge about the biological mechanisms of the disease. This work is critical to the continued progress of the innovative physicians and scientists at Siteman and to the future of cancer care.”

Dr. Artstein-Dunsay, who earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from WashU and went on to earn a doctorate in the field, has long been familiar with the university’s reputation for excellence in research. “Over the years, I have read about the many breakthroughs happening at Washington University, not just in cancer but in many other areas as well,” she says. “I have been so impressed with the brilliant people there who are doing such wonderful work.”

“This disease affects everyone, whether directly or through a friend or family member. It’s so important that we continue gaining knowledge and one day find a cure, which would bring hope to so many.”

Anita Artstein-Dunsay, AB ’65

After her husband’s death, Dr. Artstein-Dunsay began thinking about how to use the estate he left her. She knew she wanted it to benefit others. A conversation with Washington University Trustee George Couch and his wife, Debra, longtime benefactors of the School of Medicine and fellow Carmel residents, helped solidify her decision to support the university.

“George’s passion inspired me,” Dr. Artstein-Dunsay says. “I chose to invest in Siteman because I knew they would put my resources to good use. Also, WashU is my alma mater, and although I haven’t lived in St. Louis in decades, it will always be my hometown.”

Last November, Dr. Artstein-Dunsay returned to St. Louis to meet with top researchers at Siteman and tour their laboratories. She learned about their current efforts and their visions for defeating cancer. The visit strengthened her confidence in her investment.

“I want to use my good fortune in a positive way,” Dr. Artstein-Dunsay says. “I am so happy that I could make these gifts. Through them, I hope I can better many, many lives.”

Contact us to learn more about supporting the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center.