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Clayton State First-Year Common Reading Program Students to Hear from Dr. Roland Pattillo on the Henrietta Lacks Legacy

Sep 23 2014

All Clayton State University freshman are currently reading Rebecca Skloot’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” as part of the University’s First-Year Common Reading Program.

On Thursday, Sept. 25, those freshmen, the Clayton State campus community, and the general public will have the opportunity to hear from Dr. Roland A. Pattillo, professor of Gynecology at the Morehouse School of Medicine, the individual who introduced Skloot to the Lacks family. Pattillo will be speaking on “Stem Cell Biology and the Henrietta Lacks Legacy” at 4 p.m. in room B12 of the Clayton State Lecture Hall.

The co-founder and chair of the Annual HeLa Women’s Health Conference at Morehouse College, Pattillo is a major national voice on women’s health.

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” details the story of the protagonist, Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American woman who was living in Baltimore in 1951, and whose cancerous cells were taken without her knowledge. These cells live on to this day, after ultimately becoming one of the most important tools in medicine, being used, among other things, to develop the polio vaccine, in cloning, in gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization. Since her death in 1951, Lacks’ cells, known to scientists all over the world as “HeLa,” have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she is virtually unknown, and her surviving family can’t currently afford health insurance.

Pattillo attended Xavier University in New Orleans, receiving his B.S. in 1955. He received his medical degree from St. Louis University in 1959 and Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship at John Hopkins University in 1965 to 1967. He has more than 100 peer reviewed journal publications, one book, and many book chapters.

Pattillo authored the literature’s first stem cell publication in 1968 with Dr. George Gey, a founder of cell culture at John Hopkins University: Invitro identification of the Trophoblastic Stem Cell (AMERICAN JOURNAL OF OBGYN Vol 100: 582 Feb 1968). The confirmation of the Cancer Stem Cell nature of this system was published in SCIENCE 159: 1467, March 1968; the cell line establishment was verified in CANCER RESEARCH 28: 1231, July 1968.  Cancer Stem Cell Characteristics and immunologic expression were identified later: SCIENCE 196, 1456 June 1977.

Dr. Pattillo began clinical and scientific studies in 1964 with the establishment of in-vitro cell models possessing characteristic biomarkers, which were used in multiple experimental designs for assessment of endocrine function, chemotherapy, radiation therapy sensitivity, and differentiation. The initial objective was achieved in 1966 with the first identification of the Trophoblast Stem Cell and the establishment of the first human hormone synthesizing cell system to be maintained in continuous cultivation. The cell systems have been shared with scientists worldwide and the ovarian system (HEW cell line) was used to develop a new treatment for ovarian cancer.  Pattillo moved the Reproductive tract cell bank to Morehouse School of Medicine continuing the original cell culture lines from John Hopkins University and the Medical College of Wisconsin. These have continued to be used in Reproductive Biology at this institution and worldwide.

In 1995, Pattillo published a new ovarian cancer treatment method using Phosphorus 32 combined with chemotherapy. He moved to Morehouse School of Medicine in 1995 from Medical College of Wisconsin, where he served as vice chair of the Department. At Morehouse School of Medicine he served as OB/GYN interim chair from 1996 to 1998 during which time the residency program was established. He currently continues as director of Gynecologic Oncology.

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