Raising the Standard of Care
August 15, 2022
Clinical Trials at UT Southwestern
As an academic medical center, UT Southwestern offers clinical trials that give eligible patients access to the newest therapies. Learn more about clinical trials at UT Southwestern.
A champion of patient-centered care, John Sweetenham, M.D., shares his passion for cancer research.
As Associate Director for Clinical Affairs at Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, John Sweetenham, M.D., is responsible for overseeing clinical care of cancer patients within the UT Southwestern Health System. “My primary role is leveraging our strengths to make our treatments and outcomes of the research that we do available to as many people in our community and beyond as we possibly can,” Dr. Sweetenham says. “The most important part is ensuring excellence in our clinical service and making sure we are providing our patients with access to the outstanding cancer care they deserve. This includes matters such as new facilities, services we offer, and our workforce-level needs.”
In April 2022, Dr. Sweetenham was elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of 32 preeminent cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education. “The NCCN has been in existence and setting the guidelines for the standards of cancer care in the U.S. for over 25 years,” Dr. Sweetenham says. “The organization uses the expertise of all of its member institutions in panels that develop guidelines for cancer care, from screening, laboratory testing, and imaging to the treatment phase and cancer survivorship. At Simmons Cancer Center, we have representatives on all of those panels. I am proud to be a part of NCCN because it’s an organization that has made an enormous impact on the overall quality of cancer care in the U.S., including at UT Southwestern and beyond.”
Dr. Sweetenham, who joined UT Southwestern in 2019, is internationally recognized for his clinical research on lymphoma and stem cell transplantation and has been a principal investigator on national and international clinical trials in lymphoma. He is a former Lymphoma Committee member of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group and the former Chairman of the Clinical Trials Committee of Blood Cancer UK (formerly Bloodwise) in the United Kingdom. “Being part of leadership groups has put me in contact with leaders from other institutions, allowing us to build collaborations, and this is beneficial to us all. I have also gained substantial experience navigating issues and bringing people to consensus, which is important to continue making progress on the science for specific disease areas.”
“There’s no substitute for knowing and understanding your specialty and the disease you are going to treat. You have to be true to the evidence in front of you and listen to the other members of your team to come to the best decisions.”
Dr. Sweetenham earned his medical degree at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College in London and completed a residency at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. He received advanced training in medical oncology through a fellowship at the University of Southampton, where he then served as a faculty member and leader of the lymphoma and transplant programs for 10 years. “I was attracted by the energy and enthusiasm of the faculty. They were great teachers and mentors, in particular Dr. Ben Mead, a lymphoma and genitourinary oncologist and an incredibly intellectually honest person, who taught me a lot about how to think critically. Carefully choosing your mentors as those who you profoundly respect and trust is something that is really important.”
Dr. Sweetenham also completed a visiting fellowship in tumor immunology at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He moved to the University of Colorado in 2000, joined the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute in 2005 as Vice Chairman for Clinical Research and Professor of Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, and was Medical Director of UC San Diego’s Nevada Cancer Institute from July 2012 to March 2013. Dr. Sweetenham then became Professor of Medicine, Executive Medical Director, and Senior Director for Clinical Affairs at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, where he led strategic planning for the clinical cancer service line and introduced innovative cancer care delivery models.
Offering advice to oncologists in training, Dr. Sweetenham emphasizes the need to continue focusing on patient-centered care. “We really need to organize care around what works best for our patients rather than what works best for us, and the patient has to be engaged and be a part of the decision-making process, making them not an equal partner but the superior partner.”
He adds: “There’s no substitute for knowing and understanding your specialty and the disease you are going to treat. You have to be true to the evidence in front of you and listen to the other members of your team to come to the best decisions; very often you get extremely good advice, and that’s how we are going to serve our patients the best.”