August 5, 2007 marks the 70th anniversary of the National Cancer Institute Act. This landmark legislation led to the creation of what has become the world's pre-eminent cancer research organization. The act authorized the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to engage in certain fundamental activities: conducting and fostering cancer research; reviewing and approving grant-in-aid applications to support promising research projects on the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer; collecting, analyzing, and disseminating the results of cancer research conducted in the United States and elsewhere; and training and instruction in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
NCI's record of achievement in conducting, fostering, and funding cancer research is evident in the major advances that have been generated through its intramural and extramural research programs. These advances have helped define our understanding of human physiology, genetics, and cell biology; how normal cellular and physiologic activities can be subverted during the malignant process; and our ever improving ability to use this knowledge to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. It is particularly notable that NCI has supported the research efforts of at least 20 Nobel Prize winners. For approximately half of these individuals, NCI supported the awarded research. For many of the remaining Nobel laureates, NCI supported important ongoing research. Some of the advances arising from these efforts include the discovery of the segmental nature of eukaryotic genes, RNA splicing, oncogenes, and reverse transcriptase, as well as clinical applications such as magnetic resonance imaging, allogeneic bone marrow transplantation, and hormonal treatments for cancer.
Our struggle to fully understand and ultimately defeat malignant disease requires the constant and timely sharing of information among cancer researchers, health professionals, patients and their families, and the general public, as well as the continuous training of new cadres of investigators. Through the years, NCI has been a leader in exploiting new communications technologies to share cancer information. For example, the Institute's Physician Data Query (PDQ®) database became the first publicly available, disease-specific, electronic information resource when it went online in 1982. NCI is now pioneering another frontier in information sharing through its cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG™) project. Furthermore, the training and career development programs supported by NCI have played -- and will continue to play -- a vital role in U.S. and international progress against cancer. These programs allow students and professionals from the United States and other countries to develop the skills necessary to conduct basic, clinical, and cancer control research, as well as research in the behavioral and population sciences.
Much has been accomplished since the National Cancer Institute Act was passed, but much remains to be done. Through the intervening decades, those associated with NCI have had one unwavering goal: To reduce the worldwide burden of cancer through innovative research and the development of ever better interventions to prevent and treat cancer.
To learn more about the Institute's accomplishments, the research it currently supports, and its plans and priorities for the future, I invite you explore the NCI Web site in depth. The information available via the links below provides an excellent starting point.
John E. Niederhuber, M.D.
Director, National Cancer Institute