Story by: Norton Healthcare on October 17, 2019
Chandler H. Park, M.D., knew he wanted to travel to get his medical education, but he also knew he’d find his way back home.
Dr. Park’s education and clinical experience have taken him to the University of Illinois, University of Louisville, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Indiana University, West Virginia University, University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere. But the Louisville area has always beckoned.
“For me, the big drive was to come back home, because my mom is the most important figure in my life, and she has always been there for me,” Dr. Park said.
Dr. Park recently joined Norton Cancer Institute – Corydon, where he will take over from Thomas M. Woodcock, M.D. One of the four founders of what is now Norton Cancer Institute, Dr. Woodcock is retiring after almost 40 years as a medical oncologist.
As a medical oncologist/hematologist with Norton Cancer Institute, Dr. Park is board certified in both hematology and medical oncology. He completed fellowship training in hematology and medical oncology and participated as a visiting fellowship physician in immunotherapy at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Park’s immunotherapy skills bring more talent to Norton Cancer Institute with one of the newer tactics for treating cancer — turning the body’s immune system into a cancer fighter.
According to Dr. Park, immunotherapy is unique because the same basic processes can be used to treat many types of cancer. While most treatments are specific to the type of cancer, recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval means physicians can use the body’s own immune system to attack a tumor if the patient’s cancer carries a specific genetic signature. This FDA drug approval allows broad use of the therapy and is unusual since other treatments are typically approved for specific conditions.
Dr. Park checks his patients’ cancer genes to see if they are candidates for immunotherapy.
In each of the past few years, there have been 50 to 60 newly approved treatments for cancer and new clinical trials coming along regularly. Dr. Park, who studied biochemistry and earned a master’s degree in biophysics before medical school, enjoys learning about and implementing more sophisticated treatments as well as passing that knowledge along to medical oncologists.
Dr. Park volunteers as a teaching faculty member with the American Society of Clinical Oncology, writing test questions on immunotherapy, molecular tumor board and new FDA-approved cancer medications.
Precision cancer treatments personalized for each patient are becoming the new standard in cancer care.
“These cancer treatments are less chemo and more targeted treatments in immunology and molecular biology — and that’s what I love,” Dr. Park said. “My passion is building personal relationships with my patients; now I can also offer them personalized cancer treatments.”
With more than 100 specialists at locations around Louisville and Southern Indiana, Norton Cancer Institute is the area’s leading provider of cancer care.
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In a field that has been evolving with newer treatments, Dr. Park has found a passion caring for patients with gastrointestinal (GI) cancers and lung cancers. Both types of cancers can be treated with molecular testing that reveals the DNA structure of the tumor and its weaknesses, allowing more targeted treatments to each patient’s unique cancer.
“You could have eight different patients come in with the same CT [computed tomography] scan, PET [positron emission tomography] scan report, but based upon their cancer DNA they could end up with eight different treatments,” Dr. Park said. “That is what lung cancer and GI cancers are now here in 2019 — more personalized treatments.”
While working with Dr. Woodcock, Dr. Park has started to move his practice toward a specialization in GI cancers first and lung cancers second.
“I learn so much from him every day. He gives me so much insight and just a genuinely great person —very kind,” he said of Dr. Woodcock.
While the science of his work is enjoyable, Dr. Park’s other passion is people and the joy of building long-term relationships with cancer patients.
Such a notion was not common years ago, but new treatments increasingly are making cancer a chronic condition rather than a fatal one.
“It is a privilege to be in a position where you can learn something and help people who need it — and I find that very rewarding — and I don’t want to let people down,” he said.
The son of a U.S. Army veteran, Dr. Park grew up around Fort Knox, Kentucky, and left to pursue an engineering degree at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. An interest in health care and the need of a job while in college led him to become a certified nursing assistant.
His mother and immediate family live in the Fort Knox area, and his wife is originally from the Louisville area. They have a young son.
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