A $1 million gift from the estate of Linda Garner Riggs to the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) will be used to advance research of triple negative breast cancer. Riggs, who died in November 2017, was a former Arkansas insurance commissioner and managing director at Stephens Inc.
“This gift will have long-lasting effects on UAMS’ ability to help women living with breast cancer. We are grateful to Mrs. Riggs for this transforming gift, which provides vital funds for our ongoing initiative for cancer research,” said UAMS Interim Chancellor Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D.
A native of Fordyce, Riggs worked about 10 years in state government, serving as director of the research and committee staff of the Arkansas Legislature; legislative and budgetary director for Gov. Frank White; and insurance commissioner. She later joined Stephens Inc. where she worked for 25 years in corporate finance and as managing director of investment banking.
“Linda lived an exemplary life, and I was so privileged to know her and be her partner in it. She was a wonderful example and role model to anyone who wanted to become a better person,” said her husband, Lamar Riggs of Little Rock.
“We are honored and humbled that Mrs. Riggs designated the UAMS Cancer Institute as a recipient for this generous gift from her estate. Her foresight and dedication to the importance of cancer research will enable us to expand our efforts at understanding the causes of and improving the treatments for women with triple negative breast cancer and will move us closer to achieving National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation,” said Cancer Institute Director Peter Emanuel, M.D. Emanuel also serves as professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Division of Hematology.
NCI-designated cancer centers are recognized for their scientific leadership, resources, and research in basic, clinic and population science. There are 69 designated cancer centers in the United States, and the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute is in the process of pursuing this nationally recognized status.
In triple negative breast cancer, the cancer cells do not contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone or the protein HER2. Therefore, the most common hormonal therapies for breast cancer are not effective for women with this form of the disease, which is often aggressive and likely to spread or return after the initial diagnosis.
Triple negative breast cancer is diagnosed in up to 20 percent of cases and is more likely to occur in younger people, African-Americans, Hispanics and those with the BRCA1 gene mutation.
In appreciation of her gift, Riggs will be honored as a member of the 1879 Society of UAMS, recognizing all individuals who have made estate gifts to the university.