50th Anniversary of the National Cancer Act

In 1971, a single piece of legislation changed how we view cancer care forever. The National Cancer Act cemented our nation's commitment to science, establishing networks of cancer centers, clinical trials, data collection systems and advanced research.

Signed just a few days before Christmas by President Richard Nixon, the act created a national commitment to making progress against cancer by anticipating and creating the infrastructure and mechanisms needed for a large-scale, world-class cancer research enterprise. This legislation was an amendment to the Public Health Service Act of 1944 and represented the US commitment to what President Nixon described as the “war on cancer,” which had become the nation’s second leading cause of death by 1970.

The act granted broad authority to the director of National Cancer Institute (NCI) to plan and develop a National Cancer Program that included NCI, other research institutes and other federal and nonfederal programs. It established the procedure for submitting NCI’s annual budget proposal, called the “professional judgement budget,” which is transmitted directly from the NCI director to the President and Congress.

Originally published by The National Cancer Institute

Progress in Cancer at Karmanos

  • 1978 - The Cancer Center of Metropolitan Detroit, now known as the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, was awarded comprehensive status by the National Cancer Institute.

  • 1989 - Dr. Soule develops MCF-10, an immortal line of normal human breast cells. The cell line is the first of its kind to be cultured without the use of transforming agents, and is used to study the earliest changes a normal cell undergoes in becoming cancerous.

  • 1998 - The National Breast Cancer Prevention Trial releases news that the drug, Tamoxifen, can reduce the incidence of breast cancer in healthy women at high-risk for the disease by 50%. The drug was created with the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line established by the Institute in 1973.

  • 1999 - 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.

  • 2017 - CAR T-cell therapy receives FDA approval; Karmanos is one of 18 sites in the world that participated in its development.

See more research accomplishments