Karmanos Research Accomplishments

Historical Accomplishments in Research
at Karmanos Cancer Institute


  • SoftVue™ 3D Whole Breast Ultrasound Tomography System receives FDA approval for use as an adjunct to digital mammography in screening asymptomatic women with dense breast tissue. This technology was developed by Delphinus Medical Technologies, LLC, which originated as part of Karmanos Cancer Institute.
  • Researchers at Karmanos are granted a three-year NCI P20 SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) grant to study racial disparities in metro Detroit, a uniquely important underserved population where great cancer disparities exist. Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D. and Ann Schwartz, Ph.D., are principal investigators on the study.

    Karmanos receives renewal of its National Cancer Institute (NCI) Core Grant. This renewal extends Karmanos’ prestigious NCI designation through 2025.


    Karmanos and the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center receive a prestigious $9.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute. The grant is through the NCI's SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) for prostate cancer research. Elisabeth Heath, M.D. is a co-director on the Michigan Prostate SPORE.

    CAR T-cell therapy receives FDA approval; Karmanos is one of 18 sites in the world that participated in its development

    Karmanos is scheduled to receive more than $13 million in National Cancer Institute core grant support from 2011 to 2015, a five percent increase in research funds as compared to most other cancer centers.

    Karmanos’ inclusion in the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium, participation in Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials with the consortium and contribution of samples to the consortium’s tissue bank.

    The appointment of Patricia LoRusso, D.O., director of Phase I Clinical Trials and the Eisenberg Center for Experimental Therapeutics at Karmanos, as co-leader of the Stand Up To Cancer and Melanoma Research Alliance Melanoma Dream Team.

    The award of a five-year, $9 million grant for Ann Schwartz, Ph.D., M.P.H., executive vice president of research and academic affairs, to support her INHALE study, which looks at the links between smoking, inflammation and the development of lung cancer.


    The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute declares its independence in 2005, continuing its focus on providing the best in early cancer diagnosis, treatment and research. The Lawrence and Idell Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center opens in Farmington Hills, expanding cancer care to the suburbs.

    The Institute enjoys a multi-year designation as the most preferred center for cancer care in southeast Michigan, according to a survey by the National Research Corp. 

    A clinical prototype of the ultrasound tomography (UST) device is installed at the Institute. UST uses ultrasound waves for soft tissue imaging, specifically for breast cancer diagnosis. The device was first conceptualized at Karmanos in 1998 and 510k FDA approval was granted in 2013.


    In 1991, Dr. Vainutis Vaitkevicius (Dr. Vee) is named president of the Michigan Cancer Foundation.

    Forces align in 1994 as the Michigan Cancer Foundation, Detroit Medical Center, Meyer L. Prentis Comprehensive Cancer Center and Wayne State University’s oncology programs merge. Detroit is now home to one of the country’s largest cancer centers.

    In 1995, a stunning $15 million donation from Compuware co-founder Peter Karmanos, Jr. gives the organization a new name to honor his late wife who lost her battle with breast cancer. The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is born.

    Dr. Anthony Shields develops FLT as a new positron emission tomography tracer to identify cancer cells.

    Dr. Wei-Zen Wei develops the HER-2 DNA breast cancer vaccine in 1999, which has been shown to be effective on drug-resistant tumors in mice.


    Dr. Vainutis Vaitkevicius (Dr. Vee) continues his pioneering work and becomes widely credited for establishing Detroit as a major center for cancer treatment and research. An MRI center is built and named for him, bringing state-of-science tumor detection to the area.


    President Richard Nixon signs the National Cancer Act into law, officially declaring war on cancer.

    Institute doctors establish a new paradigm in oncology: the use of multidisciplinary treatment teams, organ preservation and neo-adjuvant (pre-surgery) chemotherapy.

    Dr. Herbert Soule develops MCF-10, an immortal tumor line of normal human breast cells. The first of its kind to be cultured without the use of transforming agents, the line is used to study the earliest changes a normal cell undergoes in becoming cancerous

    Dr. Vainutis Vaitkevicius and his colleagues, Dr. Norman Nigro and Dr. Basil Considine, publish the article, “Combined therapy for cancer of the anal canal.” It leads to a paradigm shift in the way cancer patients are treated including organ preservation, the use of multidisciplinary teams, and neoadjuvant (given before surgery) chemotherapy.


    The assault on cancer shifts gears. Researchers forgo the “hit-or-miss” approach of previous decades and begin taking a “rational” method of developing therapies, based on an understanding of cell growth. This leads to the synthesis of drugs such as AZT as an anti-leukemia agent, which later becomes the first drug approved for the treatment of AIDS.

    Dr. Michael J. Brennan is named president and medical director in 1966.

    The Detroit Institute for Cancer Research awards Dr. Vainutis Vaitkevicius (Dr. Vee) a fellowship in medical oncology. He is also named clinical research director for the Institute and chief of medical oncology at Grace Hospital.

    In 1973, Dr. Herbert Soule establishes the first “immortal” line of human breast cancer cells, MCF-7. The line becomes the standard for breast cancer research around the world.


    In the late 1940s, the Detroit Institute for Cancer Research and Wayne State University School of Medicine join forces, setting the stage for the innovative research projects of this decade. They also create a focus on cancer research that continues to this day. Scientists study chemotherapy development; the metabolism of cancer cells; the role of DNA/RNA in cell differentiation; and potential cancer triggers. With a grant from the National Cancer Institute, the Michigan Cancer Foundation in 1976 establishes the Metropolitan Detroit Cancer Control Program for cancer education, prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.


    World War II interrupts America’s fight against cancer. Federal research funds dry up and private organizations take over supporting the cancer battle. In 1943, with just $483 and 200 shares of General Motors stock, the Detroit Institute for Cancer Research becomes an incorporated organization.

    In 1943, Grace Hospital radiologist Dr. Rollin H. Stevens is appointed the Institute’s first president, overseeing 12 independent researchers.

    In 1949, the Michigan Tumor Registry (now the Metropolitan Detroit Cancer Surveillance System) is created to collect and classify tumor specimens from hospitals. This becomes the basis for current programs.

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