Submitted: 11 June 2014
Two interview sessions: 24 and 25 July 2012
Total approximate duration: 3 hours 20 minutes
Interviewer: Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.
For supplementary materials:
Please contact, the Historical Resources Center, Research Medical Library:
Javier Garza, MSIS, firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Interview Subject:
William C. Satterfield, D.V.M. (b. 1942; Lexington, Kentucky) came to the MD Anderson in 1983 to serve as an Attending Veterinarian and Assistant Professor at the Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research located in Bastrop, Texas. He is a Professor in the Department of Veterinary Sciences and has held the position of Chief of Livestock and Land Management in that department since 1986. He has served as Chief of the Chimpanzee Biomedical Research Resource and has been involved with sustaining the Keeling Center chimpanzee colony since he arrived.
Major Topics Covered:
Personal and educational background
The role of veterinarians in collaborative research
Use of animals in research: practicalities and controversy; care and protections for animals
MD Anderson’s chimpanzee colony
Research collaborations: HIV, hepatitis C, ovarian cancer, tissue engineering
The Michale Keeling Center and MD Anderson: laboratory practice, care of animals
Cattlemen for Cancer Research: philanthropic support of MD Anderson
Regarding the Transcript and Audio Files
In accordance with oral history best practices, this transcript was intentionally created to preserve the conversational language of the interview sessions. (Language has not been edited to conform to written prose).
The interview subject was given the opportunity to review the transcript. Any requested editorial changes are indicated in brackets [ ], and the audio file has not correspondingly altered.
Redactions to the transcript and audio files may have been made in response to the interview subject’s request or to eliminate personal health information in compliance with HIPAA.
Interview Session One: 24 July 2012
A Unique Institution: The Michael E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine
Chapter 01 / Overview
Why Animals are Important in Cancer Research: Controversy Over Using Animals
Chapter 02 / Overview
Broad Experience and an Interest in Immunology Creates a Path to MD Anderson
Chapter 03 / Educational Path
The Keeling Center and Research on HIV and Hepatitis C
Chapter 04 / An Institutional Unit
The Cattlemen for Cancer Research --Community Philanthropists
Chapter 06 / Giving to/Fundraising at MD Anderson
The Veterinarian as Research Collaborator
Chapter 07 / The Researcher
Interview Session Two: 25 July 2012
The History of ‘Good Laboratory Practice’ at the Keeling Center
Chapter 08 / An Institutional Unit
The Challenges of Collaboration and Proprietary Research
Chapter 09 / The Researcher
A Career of Collaborative Studies from HIV to Tissue Engineering
Chapter 10 / The Researcher
Managing Animals, Research, and Disasters
Chapter 11 / The Administrator
Roles that Protect Animals and the Institution
Chapter 12 / The Administrator
Connections: Bonds with Animals and with Collaborators who Insured a Good Career
Chapter 13 / A View on Career and Accomplishments
Session One: 24 July 2012 (read/listen)
Interview Identifier (read/listen)
Chapter 01 (Overview)
A Unique Institution: The Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine (listen/read)
In this segment, Dr. Satterfield explains that the Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine provides a variety of resources and services to physician-scientists at MD Anderson and the Texas Medical Center. He focuses in particular on the animal models using mice, sheep, chimpanzees and many other kinds of animals that enable experimentation with drugs, the mechanisms of cancer, and many other studies. These, in turn, provide the basis for translational research leading to therapies useful for human patients. In addition, the Center provides medical and surgical expertise for handling research animals as well as expertise in the many guidelines researchers must follow to comply with FDA regulations. He notes that the Keeling Center is a unique institution where veterinarians do more than provide clinical care and advance science. As an example, he describes his collaborative work with the Department of Neurosurgery studying the treatment of neuropathic pain in cancer patients.
Chapter 02 (Overview)
Why Animals are Important in Cancer Research: Controversy Over Using Animals (listen/read)
In this segment, Dr. Satterfield explains some basic terms and describes how biological and genetic similarities make it possible for animals to serve as stand-ins for humans in experiments. He also notes some of the characteristics scientists look for to determine whether a particular animal will offer a good model for a specific disease or condition presents itself in humans. He then explains that animals are critical to the study of cancer because the disease is so complex and expresses itself in so many ways. He notes that rhesus monkeys, for example, can spontaneously develop colon cancer just like humans, whereas other animals do not. There is tremendous individuality in animals, just as there is in cancer. He says that if computers can eventually create a replica/model of a living organism, perhaps animal studies will no longer be needed. But he doubts that a computer could ever model anything so sophisticated. One of his roles, he says, is to help investigators select the correct animal models for their studies in order to most effectively lead to treatments for humans.
Dr Satterfield next acknowledges that many people believe that animal experimentation –particularly with higher primates- is controversial and perhaps even immoral. He says he appreciates the controversy, but states that “it’s ok if we inconvenience a few animals to help millions of people.” The death of one of their research animals is a personal loss, and the staff cares deeply for all the animals at the Center. He then talks about studies of hepatitis C using chimpanzees (the only animals other than humans who can carry the disease), noting that a year and a half ago they cleared a chimp of hepatitis C. Dr. Satterfield then details the many ways that the Keeling Center cares for experimental animals: with yearly check ups, cardiac exams, and even geriatric medicine for the aging chimpanzee population. (In 1995, the NIH placed a moratorium on breeding chimpanzees, so the population is aging. IN addition, chimpanzees are not euthanized at the end of studies, as are other animals.) He also notes a case in which an experiment with a monoclonal antibody killed a chimpanzee, thus preventing that drug from being tested on human beings.
Chapter 03 (Educational Path)
Broad Experience and an Interest in Immunology Creates a Path to MD Anderson (listen/read)
In this segment, Dr. Satterfield briefly sketches his educational path and notes that when he assumed the position of Veterinarian at the Boston Zoo, he was one of the few fully employed zoo vets at the time. He also talks about his family background, noting that he elected to go into veterinary medicine because of his mother’s love of animals and her support for his habit of bringing home strays. He then lists his unique professional experiences. During his postgraduate training through the School of Veterinary Medicine at Harvard, for example, he worked with basic scientists who were looking at the transmission of disease. He acquired wide clinical experience working on animals as varied as fish, elephants, and primates. All this experience kindled his interest in basic biology and immunology. This will put him in a unique position to be recruited for MD Anderson’s Keeling Center.
Dr. Satterfield describes how he was offered the opportunity to come to MD Anderson in 1983 to study the very poorly understood disease, AIDS, and try to develop treatments based on the model of hepatitis B. He worked with chimpanzees, and tells the story of how the NIH was looking for a place to transfer its community of primates. R. Lee Clark found a donor to give one million dollars to bring the chimpanzees to MD Anderson, and he worked with Dr. Michale Keeling and Dr. Kenneth Riddle to create the chimpanzee program. He concludes this section with a brief discussion of research he conducted with the Department of Defense: this led to the discovery of a monoclonal antibody that defends against smallpox and that is now part of the anti-bioterrorism “National Stockpile.”
Chapter 04 (An Institutional Unit)
The Keeling Center and Research on HIV and Hepatitis C (listen/read)
Dr. Satterfield recalls how small the Keeling Center was when he arrived in Bastrop and the many challenges he faced caging animals. He recalls the urgent need to create adequate bio-security provisions, as no one knew how AIDS was transmitted. He also notes that because Bastrop is a remote facility, many researchers in Houston didn’t know of their existence (and still do not), but are grateful to discover all the resources they offer. He describes how the faculty grew and became an incubator for collaboration. As an example, he talks about the over 40 protocols conducted with the NIH on hepatitis C and AIDS, which led to the discovery that AIDS is a retrovirus. Dr. Satterfield then goes into detail about his work on hepatitis C, talking about how he and collaborators tested clones of the six strains of the virus to develop a resource for future testing of vaccines. He also notes his work on hepatitis B and D. He returns briefly to talk about the “watershed” hepatitis C study that resulted in a chimpanzee being cleared of the disease. He closes this Chapter by talking about medical conditions that will disqualify an animal from being included in a study.
Chapter 05 (Personal Backgroud)
A Father Who Beats Cancer (listen/read)
In this very personal segment, Dr. Satterfield recalls that in 1987 his father was diagnosed with lymphoma and all the physicians he had seen “had written him off.” Dr. Satterfield was able to have his father seen at MD Anderson and was still doing well in 1995. (Mr. Henry C. Satterfield died in an auto accident.) Dr. Satterfield explains that when he arrived at MD Anderson in 1983, he thought he would stay four years or so and move on. However, this personal experience with cancer galvanized his commitment to cancer research. “We do a little,” he says, “but everybody does and it adds up to a lot.” He also recalls MD Anderson neurosurgeon, Dr. Samuel Hassenbusch, who died of cancer (the same cancer he studied). Dr. Satterfield collaborated with Dr. Hassenbusch and recalls him very fondly. Dr. Satterfield again says that the Keeling Center offers faculty a tremendous opportunity to enjoy work, stimulating colleagues, and a sense of purpose.
Chapter 06 (Giving to/Fundraising at MD Anderson)
The Cattlemen for Cancer Research --Community Philanthropists (listen/read)
In this segment, Dr. Satterfield describes how in the late nineties, Dr. Keeling had a plan for raising seed money for new studies. Using his own strong connections to the community, he approached local ranchers to donate livestock for auction, and the Cattlemen for Cancer Research was born. They raised over 1 million dollars and give a percentage to an MD Anderson fund to help patients from a five-county area to pay for cancer treatment. Dr. Satterfield then talks about the Center’s connection to the community, noting that it is a major employer, purchases much of its supplies locally, and also brings students from Austin Community College in for educational experiences. He then notes that the auction has become a yearly event held in the fall, with a gala being held in the spring. This cancer related fund raising has become a community tradition.
Chapter 07 (The Researcher)
The Veterinarian as Research Collaborator (listen/read)
Dr. Satterfield here talks about the role he has served as Attending Veterinarian. He explains that this title was established as a result of FDA’s and the animal welfare act administered by the Animal Care and Use Committee. Though an Attending Veterinarian must report all violations of guidelines to the committee, Dr. Satterfield sees his role as a problem solver who helps investigators to think through protocols and clearly define their purposes and methods. He stresses that he sees his role as a facilitator who develops teams and fosters effective collaboration. He then describes how the FDA animal welfare regulations were set in place because of very public instances in which animals were mistreated –in some cases in the course of practicing poor science. At the time, the public also believed that pets were being used for research; he insists that MD Anderson has never used any dogs previously owned as pets for research. He notes the Tumor Referral Program, begun prior to his arrival in 1983, and run in both Bastrop and Houston, which enables the public to bring dogs suffering from canine lymphoma for treatment. He tells a touching story of a mother who brought in a dog that had belonged to her 10-year old son who had been killed. The animal was all she felt she had left of her son. Dr. Satterfield notes that the Program’s purpose is to extend the life of pets.
Session Two: 25 July 2012 (listen/read)
Interview Identifier (listen/read)
Chapter 08 (An Institutional Unit)
The History of ‘Good Laboratory Practice’ at the Keeling Center (listen/read)
In the beginning of this segment, Dr. Satterfield notes that in his role as Attending Veterinarian for the Keeling Center he works for the good of human health and also for the highest standard of care for the animals he oversees. He underscores that research animals are “unsung heroes” in the long process of conducting research and taking drugs to the market; in his view, the FDA has a difficult job in regulating this process, and it has done a good job.
Dr. Satterfield next goes into detail about the FDA’s Good Laboratory Practice [GLP] program and how the Keeling Center work to meets its criteria for quality insurance, training, documentation, and data storage –all to insure a secure and unbroken chain of experimental evidence so that other researchers can have confidence in reported methods and results and replicate experiments. As a contained unit within MD Anderson, Keeling is uniquely positioned to guarantee secure storage of data, for example, and also security of practices by providing in-house pathology services. Dr. Satterfield also explains describes the economic context in which The Keeling Center adopted the GLP standards: the GLP program enabled MD Anderson to retain control over the discoveries (intellectual property) of its researchers, derive royalties from them, and use those funds to fuel the “engine of development.” The Keeling Center, he explains, provides a piece of that development by providing animal models of use to MD Anderson researchers, as in the case of his collaboration with researchers in Plastic Surgery to engineer bone tissue. He then describes how working on projects with very high-quality research practices led him (in partnership with DR SASTRY) to propose that The Keeling Center make the investment to adopt the full GLP program.
Chapter 09 (The Researcher)
The Challenges of Collaboration and Proprietary Research (listen/read)
In this segment, Dr. Satterfield mentions his collaboration with Dr. Samuel Hassenbusch, M.D. in the Department of Neurosurgery to study in a study of alternatives to opioids in the treatment of neuropathic pain. He then diverts into career issues created when a researcher works on studies with proprietary devices and compounds. He explains that when work is proprietary, it cannot be published, a serious problem when publications are one of the main criteria used at MD Anderson for tenure and promotion. Dr. Satterfield notes that he “struggles with this as a career issue.” He also notes that veterinarians frequently contribute intellectually to the investigations they help support, but because they don’t have laboratories, their contributions are not as easily documented. The solution, he says, is sensitivity and awareness on the part of individuals who sit on the Promotions and Tenure Committee. He mentions that Dr. James Bowen and Dr. Stephen Tomasovic [Oral History Interview] have both been aware of the problem and helpful. He also anticipates that Dr. Ronald DePinho will appreciate the contributions that veterinarians make to drug research. At the end of this Chapter he underscores that the faculty at The Keeling Center are collaborators in research more than service providers and that he enjoys working with others and seeing the work translated into patient-relevant practices.
Chapter 10 (The Researcher)
A Career of Collaborative Studies from HIV to Tissue Engineering (listen/read)
Dr. Satterfield discusses his research in this segment, beginning with his collaboration with Dr. Samuel Hassenbusch, M.D. in the Department of Neurosurgery to study midazolam, an alternative to opioids in the treatment of neuropathic pain (as opioids create small tumors that add to pain and obstruct the spinal cord). He describes the tests conducted on sheep and the subcutaneous pump used to deliver the drug, a highly sophisticated device that can be controlled by telemetry. He notes that study of this system went to clinical trials several years ago.
Next he talks about the hepatitis and AIDS research conducted on chimpanzees since his arrival at MD Anderson, though he notes that it is very difficult to meet the criteria to use great apes in studies, a great loss to science in his view. At this time there is only one animal in the study of a drug that successfully cleared hepatitis C. There is also a study in progress to determine the safety of a monoclonal antibody used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases. This topic leads to an explanation of “orphan products,” drugs used very selectively for a small number of patients with rare conditions.
Dr. Satterfield then turns to his work with two gynecologic oncologists using rhesus monkeys to successfully demonstrate that oral contraceptives reduce markers for ovarian cancer. He notes that he helped the investigators select animals with ovarian cycles similar to humans as well as providing the physical services such as performing the biopsies and making slides. This discussion leads Dr. Satterfield to note that Keeling’s chimpanzee community is on oral contraceptives because of the FDA moratorium on breeding.
The next study described is the work with Dr. Miller, Chair of Plastic Surgery, who was looking for a way of recreating bony body parts using molds. Dr. Satterfield describes the process of recreating a mandible for a sheep by filling a mold with crushed bone, attaching it to the body wall so it could regenerate and grow a blood supply, then transplanting it to the jaw. This process would address clinical mandible problems in humans created by tobacco use. (The process has been used on humans in Germany.) Dr. Satterfield notes that the study was stopped 3-4 years ago. He then talks about the difficulties that physician-scientists face in sustaining a demanding research project while attending to clinical responsibilities. Dr. Satterfield explains that he sees his role as setting up a “turn-key” project where everything is prepared, saving time for the investigator who comes to Bastrop for essential tasks.
Dr. Satterfield then speaks briefly about his collaboration on a project developing cartilage surfaces for joint surface replacements. A private orthopedic pharmaceutical company funded this study in which sheep and goats were used to explore alternatives for artificial knee replacements. Finally, Dr. Satterfield talks about an ongoing NIH-funded study of a possible HIV vaccine that uses a conserved peptide to stimulate T-cells to kill the virus.
Chapter 11 (The Administrator)
Managing Animals, Research, and Disasters (listen/read)
In this segment, Dr. Satterfield reviews his administrative roles. He describes his responsibilities as Chief of Livestock and Land Management (1986 – present), noting he has been primarily involved with caring for the Center’s sheep and goats, including providing surgical and radiology services, training technicians, and organizing programs that provide the State with these animals’ blood products. He gives an overview of the Center’s land holdings of 380 acres, most of which is pasturage. He talks briefly a Master Plan drawn up in 2004 and CIPRIT grants that have enabled the Center to serve as a research resource for drug development.
Next Dr. Satterfield describes his work with the Center’s chimpanzee program. He first explains that chimpanzees are difficult to maintain because they are so intelligent, strong, and social –though they do not necessarily coexist harmoniously. The Center has a Ph.D. behavioral psychologist on staff to organize social groupings. Each chimpanzee also has a name, a medical history and a behavioral profile so the animals can be placed in healthy groupings. In his role on the External Advisory Committee (2006 – ’08) Dr. Satterfield explored funding and research opportunities from outside MD Anderson, including NIH studies, and studies of aging, diabetes, and cardiac disease. His Internal Advisory Role (2007) involved reviewing programs, chimpanzee health, and the facilities. Dr. Satterfield tells a dramatic and moving story about a male chimpanzee [Tony] who escaped and was ultimately shot by an off-duty University of Texas police officer. Dr. Satterfield is clearly still upset by this memory and he notes this was “a dark period in our history.” It also resulted in the Keeling Center offering raining to the UTPD for chimpanzee escapes, 99% of which occur through human error: Dr. Satterfield notes that there has been no problem in the last 4-5 years.
Chapter 12 (The Administrator)
Roles that Protect Animals and the Institution (listen/read)
In this segment, Dr. Satterfield notes that his goal in working with the chimpanzees was to understand autoimmune responses and to advance the understanding of chimpanzees as a species. The care of this aging colony, however, has taken on a life of its own. The United States is the only country left in the world that maintains research colonies of chimpanzees. He notes that other countries outsource their research on great apes to the U.S. so they can claim that they do not experiment on animals. Dr. Satterfield notes that the Keeling Center has been under pressure from animal rights extremists, who “data mine” –request vast amounts of information under the Public Information Act in order to disrupt the Center’s operations. Dr. Satterfield underscores that great apes all over the world are so threatened that there may not be wild communities in a few generations. The colonies in captivity are irreplaceable. He believes that the NIH’s ban on breeding the colonies is shortsighted and indicates that it has submitted to public pressure.
Dr. Satterfield then talks about his work on the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (2005 – present). He notes his work protecting MD Anderson by insuring that principle investigators meet FDA guidelines. He explains that this committee has enabled him to meet great scientists and develop productive collaborations. With budget cuts, he notes, the committee now meets via tele-conference, and this cost saving measure has hurt the collegial connection.
Next Dr. Satterfield touches on his work with the Pharmaceutical Development Center Steering Committee (2003), his role as the Center’s licensed Controlled Drug Officer, and his work as the Center’s representative for the Freedom on Information Act. He took on this role in response to data-mining by animal rights activists. He is responsible for reviewing all documents requested to determine what information is proprietary and can be protected by MD Anderson. He then talks briefly about his role as Deputy Director under Dr. Keeling and his role as Ad Interim Chair after Dr. Keeling’s death (2003). He notes that he was a candidate for Director, but was glad when Dr. Christian Abee took the position, as we has glad not to move fully into administration.
Chapter 13 (A View on Career and Accomplishments)
Connections: Bonds with Animals and with Collaborators who Insured a Good Career (listen/read)
Dr. Satterfield begins this Chapter by looking back on the collaborators he has worked with over the years. He says he hopes that the Center will continue to support research and collaborative relationships. He also hopes that the Center will maintain a viable chimpanzee community. He says he is happy not to have any particular post-retirement plans. (He retires at the end of August 2012.) Thinking about people who have inspired him, he recalls a high school biology teacher, Mrs. Lowry, whose class was “great” and guided him to science. At the close of the interview, he speaks again about his connection to the animals he has worked with over his entire career. He returns to the shooting of the chimpanzee, Tony, and notes that the Center requested the services of an MD Anderson grief counselor to help them survive the loss –another example of the human-animal bond.
This interview of Dr. William C. Satterfield, D.V.M. (b. 1942; Lexington, Kentucky) takes place in two sessions (approx 3:20 total) on 24 and 25 July 2012 at MD Anderson’s Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research located in Bastrop, Texas. Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D. is the interviewer.
Dr. Satterfield came to the Keeling Center in 1983 as an Attending Veterinarian and Assistant Professor. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Veterinary Sciences and since 1986 has held the position of Chief of Livestock and Land Management in that same department. He has served as Chief of the Chimpanzee Biomedical Research Resource and has been involved with sustaining the Keeling Center chimpanzee colony since he arrived.
Dr. Satterfield received his B.S. in Zoology and Chemistry in 1965 from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. He went on to Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama for his D.V.M. (conferred in 1969) then took postgraduate training for two years (1978-‘79) in Foreign Animal Diseases at the U.S. Dept of Agriculture. During this period (from 1971 – 1982) he was also employed as the Director of Biomedical Programs at the Boston Zoological Society (the Franklin Park Zoo) in Boston, Massachusetts. (Dr. Satterfield notes that he was one of the few veterinarians fully employed at a zoo at that time.) Prior to joining MD Anderson, Dr. Satterfield taught as a clinical assistant and then as an assistant professor (1980-‘83) at the Tufts New England Med Center School of Vet Medicine, while simultaneously holding a research assistantship (1981-’84) at the Department of Defense Wildlife Field Research conducted through the Harvard School of Tropical Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts.
In this interview, Dr. Satterfield emphasizes that veterinarians serve much more than a support function and take an active role in collaboration and research with other MD Anderson investigators. He discusses the wide variety of collaborative research projects he has worked on over the course of his career (e.g. HIV, ovarian cancer, tissue engineering). He also speaks in detail about the care given to animals at the Keeling Center and is eloquent about their importance as the “unsung heroes” of medical research.