Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

The progression of science

Junius Hayes’ life has been a series of well-timed opportunities. Passionate about science and technology since he was young, he nearly pursued a career in medical research, but ended up using his degrees in biology and chemistry with jobs at NASA and the Department of Energy.

A twist of fate provided him the opportunity to put his scientific knowledge to work as a Presidential Interchange Executive and help negotiate technology and energy trade agreements with Third World countries. He also worked domestically to create the Office of Minority Impact, increasing minority participation in energy programs.

After three decades of bringing scientific and technological advances to other parts of the world, Hayes decided to return to his hometown of Richmond, Va., and see how his expertise could be used to improve the local community. That scientific knowledge came in handy in a way he never expected.

Following a regular screening, Hayes learned that he had early stage prostate cancer. He was presented with the opportunity to participate in a new clinical trial that utilizes a biodegradable balloon inserted next to the prostate that, when inflated, allows for more targeted radiation to the prostate and less damage to the surrounding areas.

“When they told me the science behind this trial, I had to chuckle … I knew all about the materials used from my time at NASA!” said Hayes. “I loved the idea of being a part of the next generation of scientific advancement for products I helped develop — what an amazing application for these materials.”

Hayes became the first patient in the United States to go on the BioProtect trial, led by Massey’s Mitchell Anscher, M.D., the Florence and Hyman Meyers Chair of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University. Anscher was the first physician in the U.S. to test the Israeli-created product and, as a result, Hayes’ participation garnered a great deal of attention.

After eight weeks of radiation, Hayes received a clean bill of health and feels better than ever.

“I could never have predicted that my return to Richmond would give me such a great opportunity to impact medical research,” says Hayes. “If I’m able to help advance science in any way, then I’m thrilled to have participated. I feel like I’ve come full circle.”

Photo: Mitchell Anscher, M.D., and Diane Holdford, R.N., clinical research nurse, are leading Massey's participation in the BioProtect clinical trial.