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NIH 1998 Almanac/The Organization/NCI/      

National Cancer Institute: Important Events in NCI History


August 5, 1937--President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Cancer Institute Act.

November 9, 1937--The National Advisory Cancer Council held its first meeting.

November 27, 1937--The Surgeon General awarded first grants-in-aid on the recommendation of the National Advisory Cancer Council.

January 3, 1938--The National Advisory Cancer Council recommended approval of first awards for fellowships in cancer research.

August 1940--The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published its first issue.

July 1, 1946--The cancer control program was established with appropriations to the states for support of cancer control activities. Staff was organized into six sections: biology, biochemistry, biophysics, chemotherapy, epidemiology, and pathology.

July 1, 1947--NCI reorganized to provide an expanded program of intramural cancer research, cancer research grants, and cancer control activities.

November 13, 1947--The Research Grants and Fellowship Branch was established. It became the administrative arm of the Advisory Council.

October 1948--A grants program to medical, dental, and osteopathic schools was initiated for improvement of training in the field of cancer research, diagnosis, and treatment.

July 2, 1953--NCI inaugurated a full-scale clinical research program in the new Clinical Center.

April 1955--The Cancer Chemotherapy National Service Center was established in the institute to coordinate the first national, voluntary, cooperative cancer chemotherapy program.

1957--The first malignancy (choriocarci-noma) was cured with chemotherapy at NCI.

November 1959--The Journal of the National Cancer Institute inaugurated a series of occasional publications as Monographs to be used for longer scientific communications.

September 13, 1960--The NCI director appointed an associate director for grants and training, associate director for field studies, and associate director for collaborative research.

January 12, 1961--The Laboratory of Viral Oncology was established to investigate the relationship of viruses to human cancer.

April 2, 1962--An exhibit, "Man Against Cancer," opened in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the institute’s 25th anniversary and inaugurate Cancer Progress Year.

May 7, 1962--The Acute Leukemia Task Force held its first meeting. It focused the combined efforts and resources of scientists on studies of therapy of the acute leukemia patient, and was the forerunner of other task forces on specific forms of cancer.

October 25, 1962--The Human Cancer Virus Task Force held its first meeting. The task force, of scientists from NCI and other institutions, stimulated the development of special programs in viral oncology.

1963--Studies were initiated at NCI in Hodgkin’s disease with combination chemotherapy.

December 1964--The report of the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke was published.

January 11, 1966--NCI reorganized to coordinate related activities. Areas of three scientific directors were established: etiology, chemotherapy, and a group of discipline-oriented laboratories and branches referred to as general laboratories and clinics. Two associate directors were named for program and for extramural activities.

February 13, 1967--A cancer research center was established by the institute in Baltimore USPHS Hospital to conduct an integrated program of laboratory and clinical research.

April 27, 1970--At the request of Senator Ralph W. Yarborough, chairman of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, the Senate approved the establishment of the National Panel of Consultants on the Conquest of Cancer.

November 25, 1970--The national panel of consultants submitted to the Senate committee a report entitled "National Program for the Conquest of Cancer."

October 18, 1971--President Nixon converted the Army’s former biological warfare facilities at Fort Detrick, Md., to house research activities on the causes, treatment and prevention of cancer.

December 23, 1971--President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act of 1971.

July 27, 1972--A Bureau-level organization was established for the National Cancer Institute, giving the institute and its components organizational status commensurate with the responsibilities bestowed on it by the National Cancer Act of 1971. Under the reorganization, NCI was composed of the Office of the Director and four divisions: Cancer Biology and Diagnosis; Cancer Cause and Prevention; Cancer Treatment; and Cancer Grants (renamed successively the Division of Cancer Research, Resources and Centers, and later the Division of Extramural Activities).

June 20, 1973--NCI director Dr. Frank J. Rauscher, Jr., announced that eight institutions were recognized as Comprehensive Cancer Centers to bring results of research as rapidly as possible to a maximum number of people. Additional centers were announced on Nov. 2, 1973, June 13, 1974, Oct. 18, 1974, Apr. 8, 1976, Dec. 30, 1976, July 27, 1978, and Mar. 2, 1979. There are now 20.

September 5, 1973--The President transmitted to Congress the first annual report of the director of the National Cancer Program, a 5-year strategic plan for the program, and the report of the National Cancer Advisory Board. Preparation and transmittal of the documents were mandated by the National Cancer Act of 1971.

September 10, 1974--The Division of Cancer Control and Rehabilitation was established to plan, direct, and coordinate an integrated program of cancer control and rehabilitation activities with the goal of identifying, testing, evaluating, demonstrating, communicating, and promoting the widespread use of available and new methods for reducing cancer incidence, morbidity, and mortality.

September 12, 1974--NCI made its first cancer control awards to state health departments for a 3-year program to screen low-income women for cancer of the uterine cervix. At its peak in 1978, the program had grown to a total of 32 states and territories.

December 17, 1974--NCI and the National Library of Medicine established CANCERLINE, a jointly developed computerized service to provide scientists across the country with information on cancer research projects and published findings.

December 19, 1974--The Clinical Cancer Education Program was announced to develop more innovative teaching methods in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation in schools of medicine, dentistry, osteopathy, and public health; affiliated teaching hospitals; and specialized cancer institutions.

1975--The Cooperative Minority Biomedical Program, as approved by the National Cancer Advisory Board, represented a cofunding effort by NCI to implement and foster cancer research through the DRR Minority Biomedical Research Support Program and the NIGMS Minority Access to Research Careers Program.

August 5, 1977--NCI celebrated its 40th anniversary with a ceremony on the NIH campus. Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington who, as a member of the House of Representatives, introduced a bill to establish the NCI in 1937, sent a message stating: "Those one and a half million Americans who are alive today--cured of cancer--are ample justification for all that we’ve appropriated over the last 40 years."

1979--The first human RNA virus (HTLV-I) was discovered by NCI’s Dr. Robert C. Gallo.

July 18, 1979--NCI and the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., signed an agreement to cooperate in a cancer treatment research program.

July 10, 1980--HHS Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris approved institute-wide reorganization. A newly created Division of Resources, Centers, and Community Activities incorporated functions of the former Division of Cancer Control and Rehabilitation and programs for education, training, construction, cancer centers, and organ site research of the former Division of Cancer Research, Resources, and Centers (DCRRC). Other activities of the DCRRC were incorporated into the new Division of Extramural Activities.

April 27, 1981--A new Biological Response Modifiers Program was established in the Division of Cancer Treatment to investigate, develop and bring to clinical trials potential therapeutic agents that may alter biological responses that are important in the biology of cancer growth and metastasis.

September 1982--PDQ, a computerized database on cancer treatment information, became available nationwide via the National Library of Medicine’s MEDLARS system.

December 16, 1982--NCI purchased what is now the R. A. Bloch International Cancer Information Center through generous donations to the NCI Gift Fund. This building houses the Journal of the National Cancer Institute; the Scientific Information Branch, which publishes Cancer Treatment Reports and Cancer Treatment Symposia; the International Cancer Research Data Bank; and PDQ.

July 16, 1983--NCI launched the Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) to establish a cancer control effort which combines the expertise of community oncologists and the NCI clinical research programs. The CCOP initiative is designed to bring the advantages of clinical research to cancer patients in their own communities.

September 1983--The Office of International Affairs was reorganized to add a Scientific Information Branch and a Computer Communications Branch. The Scientific Information Branch is composed of a literature research section, cancer treatment reports section, Journal of the National Cancer Institute section, and the international cancer research data bank section.

Community Clinical Oncology Program, an NCI resource that links community-based physicians with cooperative groups and cancer centers for participation in institute-approved clinical trials, was created.

December 5, 1983--The name of the Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention was changed to the Division of Cancer Etiology (DCE).

The Division of Resources, Centers and Community Activities was renamed the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (DCPC) to emphasize the division’s roles in cancer prevention and control research.

1984--A policy statement regarding the relationship of the NCI, the pharmaceutical industry, and NCI-supported cooperative groups was developed. The statement articulates the need for collaboration between the NCI and the pharmaceutical industry in pursuing the joint development of anticancer drugs of mutual interest. It also sets forth guidelines for the handling of issues such as the joint sponsorship of trials, the sharing of information between sponsors, maintaining the confidentiality of certain classes of data, the funding of cooperative groups by drug companies, the review of protocols and the publication of results.

The Comprehensive Minority Biomedical Program, DEA, was established to widen the focus of the minority effort along lines of the programmatic thrusts of the institute, thereby giving it trans-NCI responsibilities.

The Cancer Control Science program was established in DCPC to develop programs in health promotion research and to stimulate widespread application of existing cancer control knowledge. Branches include health promotion sciences, cancer control applications and cancer training.

March 6, 1984--DHHS Secretary Margaret M. Heckler launched a new cancer prevention awareness program by NCI to inform the public about cancer risks and steps individuals can take to reduce risk.

April 1984--An NCI scientist, Dr. Robert C. Gallo, reported the isolation of a new group of viruses found in the helper T-cells of patients with AIDS or pre-AIDS symptoms, as well as from healthy individuals at high risk for developing AIDS. These viruses were ultimately named human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. This discovery made the control of blood-product-transmitted AIDS feasible by enabling the development of a simple test for the detection of AIDS-infected blood by blood banks and diagnostic laboratories.

August 1985--The Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program, one of the first formal postdoctoral research training programs in cancer prevention, began.

November 10, 1986--The International Cancer Information Center was established in the Office of International Affairs, NCI Office of the Director.

May 1987--As part of NIH’s centennial celebration year, NCI commemorated its 50th anniversary.

October 15, 1987--The DCPC established the Laboratory for Nutrition and Cancer Research with the basic nutrition science section and the clinical/metabolic human studies section.

October 24, 1987--The Office of Technology Development was established in the NCI Office of the Director as the institute’s focal point for the implementation of pertinent legislation, rules and regulations, and the administration of activities relating to collaborative agreements, inventions, patents, royalties, and associated matters.

October 26, 1987--The DCT abolished the following branches and/or sections and laboratory: the chromosome structure and function section in the Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology; the Drug Evaluation Branch and its sections; the drug synthesis section and the acquisition section in the Drug Synthesis and Chemistry Branch; the fermentation section and the plant and animal products section in the Natural Products Branch; the chemical resources section, the analytical and product development section and the clinical products section in the Pharmaceutical Resources Branch; the Extramural Research and Resources Branch; and the Animal Genetics and Production Branch; the sections of the Information Technology Branch; the Laboratory of Experimental Therapeutics and Metabolism and its sections; the sections of the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

The DCT changed the name of the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics to the Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology. The division also established the Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology Branch, Biological Testing Branch, and Grants and Contracts Operations Branch.

1988--In DCT’s Clinical Oncology Program, the Clinical Pharmacology Branch merged with the Medicine Branch.

The International Cancer Information Center established as separate office in the NCI Office of the Director.

January 1988--NCI journals Cancer Treatment Reports and Journal of the National Cancer Institute were consolidated into a biweekly Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

September 30, 1988--The first Consortium Cancer Center was established, comprised of three historically black medical schools. Component universities supported by this core grant--Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, Meharry Medical College in Nashville, and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta--focus their efforts on cancer prevention, control, epidemiology, and clinical trials.

April 1989--The NCI-initiated mechanism of supplementing research grants to encourage recruitment of minority scientists and science students into extramural research laboratories is published as an NIH-wide extramural program announcement. This initiative will be expanded to cover science students and scientists who are women or persons with disabilities.

May 22, 1989--NCI scientist Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg conducted the first human gene transfer trial using human tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes to which a foreign gene has been added.

September 14, 1990--Scientists from NCI and NHLBI conducted the first trial in which a copy of a faulty gene was inserted into white blood cells to reverse the immune deficiency it causes. This was the first human gene therapy trial and adenosine deaminase deficiency was treated.

December 19, 1990--The institute began its year-long celebration of the 20th anniversary of the National Cancer Act by inaugurating a series of articles in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The series described the growth in knowledge that has occured in cancer research since 1971.

January 29, 1991--The first human gene therapy to treat cancer was started. Patients with melanoma were treated with tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes to which a gene for tumor necrosis factor has been added.

September 24, 1991--Congress held a special hearing to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the National Cancer Act. Dr. Samuel A. Broder, NCI director, thanked Congress for its "consistent vision, leadership, and commitment to the goal of alleviating the death and suffering caused by cancer in this country."

October 1991--NCI began its Five-a-Day program, in partnership with the nonprofit group, Produce for Better Health, to encourage Americans to eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day.

December 18, 1992--Taxol (paclitaxel), an anticancer drug extracted from the bark of the Pacific yew, received approval by the FDA for the treatment of ovarian cancer that has failed other therapy. NCI spearheaded the development of the drug through collaboration with the USDA’s Forest Service, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, made possible by the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986.

November 1993--The Prostate, Lung, Colo-rectal, and Ovarian trial, designed to determine whether certain screening tests will reduce the number of deaths from these cancers, began recruiting 148,000 men and women, ages 55-74.

February 1995--The results of the Community Intervention Trial for Smoking Cessation were completed and published.

1995/1996--NCI leadership initiated a major reorganization, based on recommendations of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the National Cancer Advisory Board and NCI streamlining work groups and quality improvement teams. Two extramural divisions were created--the Division of Cancer Treatment, Diagnosis and Centers and the Division of Cancer Biology. Two intramural divisions were also created--the Division of Basic Sciences and the Division of Clinical Sciences--and one combined intramural/extramural division--the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. The Divisions of Cancer Prevention and Control and Extramural Activities remain a part of the NCI structure, but in the extramural program.

November 1996--Cancer mortality rates decline nearly 3 percent between 1991 and 1995, the first sustained decline since national record-keeping was instituted in the 1930’s.

August 1, 1997--NCI, in partnership with government, academic, and industrial laboratories, launches the Cancer Genome Anatomy Project with two overall goals: to enhance the discovery of the acquired and inherited molecular changes in cancer and to evaluate the clinical potential of these discoveries. The project includes a website allowing scientists to rapidly access data generated through the project and apply it to their studies.

October 1997--NCI reorganization continues, with the creation of the Division of Cancer Prevention and the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences from the former Division of Cancer Prevention and Control and the extramural component of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.

March 1998--Cancer incidence rates show first sustained decline since NCI began keeping records in 1973--the rates dropped 0.7 percent per year from 1990 to 1995. Cancer mortality rates continue to decline.

April 6, 1998--Results of the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial, testing the effectiveness of tamoxifen to prevent the disease, are announced 14 months earlier than expected: women taking tamoxifen had 45 percent fewer breast cancer diagnoses than women on the placebo, proving that breast cancer can be prevented. Rare, but serious side effects are shown to occur in some postmenopausal women on tamoxifen--endometrial cancer and blood clots. A study to compare tamoxifen to another, potentially less toxic drug is planned for fall 1998.


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