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NIH Record


NCI Senior Scientist Sanford Retires

By Francis X. Mahaney, Jr.

After 49 years of service and a year past her official retirement, Dr. Katherine K. Sanford, a senior scientist with the National Cancer Institute, is leaving NIH.

She officially retired in December 1995, but volunteered to stay on an extra year to complete her research. From 1977 until her retirement, Sanford was chief of the in vitro carcinogenesis section at NCI's Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology. She has been a world leader in studies of tissue culture and in vitro carcinogenesis.

Dr. Katherine K. Sanford

Recently, she developed the first laboratory test that distinguishes persons with Alzheimer's disease, and persons predisposed to cancer. The test involves subjecting the person's skin fibroblasts or blood lymphocyte cells in culture to fluorescent light that causes DNA damage. The cells are then treated with DNA repair inhibitors and compared for chromatid breaks; in Alzheimer's and cancer patients' cells there are many more chromatid breaks under certain conditions. This research was published last May in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

"The cytogenetic assay developed by Dr. Sanford is a great contribution," said Dr. Ram Parshad of Howard University School of Medicine. "It has the potential to be used as both a marker of cancer predisposition and for certain neurodegenerative diseases."

Last year, Sanford and her coworkers found that green tea-derived phenolic compounds, and curcumin, a plant phenolic, inhibit the DNA damaging effects of fluorescent light on cultured cells.

During the past decade, Sanford has been instrumental in the development of a cytogenetic assay to evaluate DNA repair of mammalian cells in culture. Using this assay, she and her colleagues showed, as early as 1985, that there is a defect in the processing of x-ray-induced DNA damage, common to cells from human tumors and unaffected skin fibroblasts or to blood lymphocytes from individuals genetically predisposed to cancer, including familial and some breast cancers.

Sanford was born in Chicago. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in 1937 from Wellesley College, and her Ph.D from Brown University in 1942. In 1988, she received an honorary doctorate of science from Catholic University.

From 1941 to 1942, Sanford was an instructor in biology, immunology, and comparative anatomy at Western College in Oxford, Ohio. From 1942 to 1943, she was an instructor at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., and from 1943 to 1947, she was an assistant director of the science program at Johns Hopkins University Nursing School.

Joining first the tissue culture section in NCI's Laboratory of Biology, she has been active in cancer research since 1947. In 1954, one of her earliest works on tissue cell culture earned her the Ross Harrison Fellowship Award and opened up a new field of research on the in vitro malignant transformation of rodent cells. In 1974, she became head of NCI's cell physiology and oncogenesis section, Laboratory of Biochemistry.

"She was among the first scientists to culture mammalian cells on a glass substrate," said Dr. Charles W. Boone of NCI's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. In the early days of her career, mammalian cells were grown in blood clots, he said. "She is a first class scientist, leaving behind a good set of experiments still to be done. Her research will endure and will not be lost in the molecular woodlands."

Sanford is a founding member of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and has served on various AACR committees. She is also a member of the American Society for Cell Biology, the Tissue Culture Association, the International Society for Cell Biology, and the American Society of Human Genetics.

OER's Padgette Retires After 30 Years

By Rich McManus

For the first time in a decade, business in the office of the NIH deputy director for extramural research must be conducted without the skilled hand of Ann Padgette, who retired Jan. 3 after a 30-year NIH career. This is a loss not only of great talent and dedication, say those who know her well, but also of fine personal qualities that greatly enhanced the workplace.

"There are people in the workplace whose chief virtue is that they are really nice," observed NHLBI deputy director Dr. Peter Frommer, who interviewed Padgette for her first job here in 1967 and later hired her as his secretary for more than 10 years. "And there are people who are not so nice, but are really good at what they do. Ann is a lovely combination of both -- she's really nice and she really does the work.

Ann Padgette

"She's just a lovely person -- skilled, effective, hardworking, and liked by everyone," he continued. "Everyone had confidence in her as a person, and as a confidante."

A native of Jackson, Tenn., who still retains a subtle Southern accent despite being reared in the Mt. Pleasant area of Washington, D.C., Padgette had already spent a number of years in the private sector when she arrived at NIH in 1967.

"I just wanted a government career," she recalls. "My family has a tradition of working for the PHS (Public Health Service)," she recalls. "It was a logical place to come."

She was hired as a secretary "in the old Artificial Heart-Myocardial Infarction Branch, which doesn't even exist, of course," she notes with a quiet laugh. She remained in the heart institute for 19 years, most of which were spent with Frommer, Dr. Barbara Packard and Dr. Eugene Passamani. In 1986, Padgette came to Bldg. 1 to work for Dr. William Raub, who was NIH deputy director for extramural research.

"Dr. Raub had asked me for recommendations about a secretary, and I said all the nice things one naturally says about Ann," remembers Frommer. "I told him she was the gold standard for secretaries. A few years later Dr. Raub stopped me and told me that my recommendation was wrong -- (Padgette) was much better than that!"

Padgette worked for a succession of DDERs beginning with Raub and continuing with Drs. Katherine Bick, the late John Diggs, and, most recently, Wendy Baldwin for the past 3½ years.

"They were all so very different," notes Padgette. "But all have been very interesting people. Very committed and dedicated."

She acknowledges a special relationship with Diggs since he was born just 10 miles from her hometown in the Volunteer State. And she said Baldwin is especially enjoyable. "Dr. Baldwin is a lot of fun. She's got just enormous energy and tremendous dedication. But I've enjoyed them all."

Said Baldwin, "In the 3½ years I have worked with Ann Padgette, I have found her to be one of the nicest and most competent people I could hope to find. She goes beyond what is needed to do the things that make everyone's days better. I am always amazed to find how many people not only know Ann, but count her as one of the best, and I agree!"

Padgette's NIH tour took her through a variety of buildings including 31 (twice), Landow and Federal. But Bldg. 1 has impressed her as NIH's most exciting worksite.

The stimulation of her office notwithstanding, Padgette is leaving "because I just think I've worked long enough. When you combine the private industry years and the government ones, it adds up."

She doesn't have any big plans for retirement, but intends to stay in Kensington and resume interests in piano and painting watercolors, plus "the usual volunteer work, and a little traveling."

Padgette was honored with an NIH Merit Award in 1992. "NIH has been a wonderful place to work -- I really mean that," she said. "It's been a real privilege to be here."

As her career neared an end, Padgette, who was honored at a Jan. 3 reception in the lobby of Bldg. 1, took snapshots of favorite people and locations on campus.

"Ann gave a lovely ambiance to the office," Frommer concluded. "She was a model and an inspiration. We're going to miss her -- even those of us who don't see her on a regular basis."

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