Retired cancer research pioneer leaves North Carolina legacy

We hope that when we reach the end of our career, we can look back and say that we have achieved the goals we set for ourselves. Dr James Radford, an oncologist at the Pardee Cancer Center, had two goals in his profession: never to be bored and to leave thinking he had done something that wouldn’t have been done or done as well if he hadn’t. hadn’t been there.

As he retires from a remarkable career, there is no doubt that he can tick those boxes. Dr Radford has touched the lives of many through his compassionate care and the development of the cancer research program at Pardee, which has provided thousands of patients with access to a large number of national and international clinical trials. new cancer therapies.

In her sophomore year at Radford University, her mother was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. Although her treatment went well, her diagnosis came before medical oncology was a specialty and before families had someone available to answer their questions, suggest other treatment options, or help. patients to learn how to cope with such a difficult life event. This experience made Radford want to be that person for others.

Radford studied medicine at the University of Michigan School of Medicine in Ann Arbor. He completed a residency in oncology and pursued a fellowship in hematology at the University of Iowa. He began his medical career in academic medicine, serving on the faculty at Wake Forest University and the University of Minnesota. When he made the decision to pursue another field of medicine, he chose to be closer to his family in western North Carolina and moved to Hendersonville.

Dr James Radford

Once in Hendersonville and practicing with Pardee, Radford developed the Pardee cancer research program and remained the principal investigator for over 22 years. He said creating the program felt like his duty and a way to improve people’s lives.

“It seemed like an obligation to the community,” Radford said. “Establishing this program was the only thing I could do besides treating my individual patients, it was the only thing I could do to help move the field forward for my children, my grandchildren and everyone. ”

Pardee’s clinical trials programs, through which patients can access a large number of national and international clinical trials of new cancer therapies, began in 1999 with only Dr Radford and research nurse Karen Morris . Morris eventually became the cancer research coordinator for the program. They have since expanded the program to four researchers while maintaining 50 to 55 continuous open studies since the inception of the program.

Under Radford’s leadership and membership in the Southeast Clinical Oncology Research Program (SCOR), the Pardee Cancer Research Program has enabled residents of Henderson County and surrounding areas to participate in clinical studies. in more than 20 community cancer centers in the south-east.

Typically, clinical trials in large metropolitan hospitals were limited only to people with very complex cases. The reality was that these large medical centers also needed access to patients with less complex cases – stage two breast cancer, for example. Dr Radford saw an opportunity in the fact that he and his team had access to a large patient base that scientists at other centers needed for clinical trials. With Radford’s encouragement and guidance, Pardee was able to become part of a cooperative cancer research group where leading medical centers came together to write clinical trials requiring more patients than any individual program.

By participating in this cooperative research group, and later becoming a community-based clinical oncology program, patients benefit because they can participate in a clinical trial outside of UCLA, for example, without having to travel to do so. . Likewise, the UCLA trial that required 5,000 patients can now complete its research in two years instead of 20 years, with the addition of community cancer centers like Pardee now in the largest pool of hospitals.

In 2009, Radford was honored for his research with the David King Community Clinical Scientist Award through the Association of Community Cancer Centers. It is one of his dearest honors because Radford’s goal from the start was to make sure he “makes a difference on this land”.

Although he will say he only made a difference “in a hundred small ways, not in big ways,” his patients and colleagues believe the opposite. Dr Radford has been voted one of North Carolina’s Top Doctors for Medical Oncology and Hematology every year since 2005, and he’s been on America’s Top Doctors list nine times.

“I am grateful to Dr. Radford for his innovation and leadership over the years and for his work which has truly transformed cancer care in Henderson County. said Jay Kirby, President and CEO, Pardee UNC Health Care. “He is loved by his patients and admired by his colleagues at Pardee. We will miss him dearly, but he will leave knowing that he has had an impact on our ability to connect our patients to clinical trials and the pursuit of cancer research. I am grateful for his dedication to this community and wish him the best in his retirement. ”

Radford left an incredibly precious legacy in western North Carolina. Thanks to his work over more than two decades, thousands of patients have recovered from cancer and lives have been saved.

“My patients are often kind enough to tell me, ‘I’m so glad you’re my doctor,” Radford said. “They tell me I’ve made a difference that I don’t think someone else is. would have done and that is the real accomplishment of my career. ”

Through his research alongside researchers across the country, it is hoped that in the future, when a new cancer that has not been seen before appears, it will take months instead of decades to develop a treatment that blocks or modifies this specific mutation and treats this specific cancer.

Radford is grateful for his time in this community and how he has been able to advance cancer research and foster relationships with his patients over the years.

“I’m going to miss that moment when I walk into a patient’s room and say, ‘Hey, welcome back. How are things going ?’ He said he looks forward to fishing and spending time with his wife, Heidi, and their three children.


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