Dr. Andrew Kraft came to Charleston in 2004 to be the director of the Hollings Cancer Center. He came to us from the University of Colorado in Denver, where he had led a successful oncology division in a prominent cancer center.
The Hollings Cancer Center was formed in 1993, and had made steady progress through the years, but one goal for the center had remained elusive. That goal was to achieve National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center designation.
In 2003, the prospects of obtaining this goal appeared bleak. Although the Hollings Cancer Center was busy seeing over 1,000 new cancer patients a year, there were relatively few NCI competitive grants and only about 40 patients a year were being enrolled into investigative protocols to find new and better ways of caring for particular cancers. In other words, the center was a good place for care, but few faculty were engaged in the cutting-edge research that would make the center of interest to the NCI and nationally prominent.
Dr. Kraft's mandate on his recruitment was to elevate the Hollings to that level of national recognition that it could be one of the less than 70 NCI Cancer Centers in this country. There was one in the Deep South, at the University of Alabama-Birmingham at the time, but South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana did not have one. Meanwhile, there were several in Boston and New York. The closest NCI center to Charleston was in Durham, N.C., at Duke University, and many South Carolinians went there for the special care one can receive at a NCI Center.
Dr. Kraft transformed the Hollings Cancer Center with his focused leadership, vision, inspiration, academic skills and just plain old hard work. He has tirelessly recruited new physicians and scientists in multiple departments at MUSC.
A team of nurses, scientists, administrators and physicians has been busy, very busy turning the Hollings into a nationally recognized and important cancer center.
This can best be seen by the fact that in 2009 and again this year, consecutive five year awards of multi-million dollar National Cancer Center grants were obtained, making Hollings a NCI designated Center. The research grants this year at Hollings stand at over $42 million compared to $27 million in 2004.
To be an NCI designated center means that a primary mission is to learn the causes of cancer and the best methods of prevention.
Of course, it also means that the center is a place where one can go to get the latest medicines and treatments in the battle against cancer. Charlestonians and South Carolinians need no longer travel to Durham for this kind of unique care. Today the number of new cancer patients being treated at Hollings has more than doubled, and 10 times the number of patients are enrolled in scientific protocols with novel approaches to various cancers. The range of treatments and expertise has greatly expanded and cancer prevention has become a core competency.
Dr. Kraft leaves this month for the University of Arizona where he will continue his quest to cure cancer. He leaves the Hollings Cancer Center that he has led for 10 years a far better place than the one he found. His successor with be able to continue to build on an incredibly firm foundation.
We thank Dr. Kraft for a job well done and accomplishing the mission he came here to do.
The patients in all hospitals in South Carolina have and will for years benefit from the transformative force Dr. Kraft brought to the Hollings Cancer Center.
Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings served as governor of South Carolina from 1959-63 and in the U.S. Senate from 1966-2005. Jerry Reves, M.D., is dean emeritus of MUSC's College of Medicine.
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