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250 Years of Advances Against Cancer - 1960s

1960
Peter Nowell and David Hungerford describe an unusually small chromosome in the cancer cells of patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). This chromosome, which becomes known as the Philadelphia (Ph) chromosome in honor of the city in which it was discovered, is found in the leukemia cells of 95 percent of patients with CML.

The concept of using the sentinel lymph node—that is, the first lymph node to which cancer cells are most likely to spread, or metastasize, from a tumor—as an indicator of whether cancer has spread beyond the original tumor site is introduced. Sentinel lymph node biopsies are first described for patients with parotid gland cancer, but they will later become important in the management of patients with melanoma and breast cancer.
1961
Marshall Nirenberg and Heinrich Matthaei demonstrate that the information to make proteins is stored in DNA in the form of a triplet nucleotide code.

The FDA approves vinblastine for the treatment of cancer. Vinblastine, the first member of a class of drugs known as the vinca alkaloids to be approved by the FDA, blocks cancer cell proliferation by stabilizing microtubules, which are fibrous structures inside cells that help separate chromosomes when cells divide.
1963
The Health Insurance Plan (HIP) of Greater New York Study begins. HIP would be the first randomized controlled trial to investigate whether periodic breast cancer screening with mammography could reduce breast cancer mortality (death).
1964
The U.S. Surgeon General issues a report stating that cigarette smoking is an important health hazard in the United States and that action is required to reduce its harmful effects. According to the report, cigarette smoking shortens human life, causes lung and other cancers, and plays a role in the development of chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and heart disease.

For the first time, a virus—the Epstein-Barr virus—is linked to human cancer (Burkitt lymphoma). Epstein-Barr virus is now known to cause several other cancers, including nasopharyngeal carcinoma and Hodgkin lymphoma.
1967
The guaiac fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is introduced as a screening test for colorectal cancer. Guaiac, a resin obtained from the tree Guaiacum officinale, is used to detect heme, the iron-containing component of the blood protein hemoglobin, in stool samples.
1968
Baruch Blumberg and colleagues report initial isolation of the virus associated with serum hepatitis, which is also known as hepatitis B. Chronic infection with this virus, the hepatitis B virus (HBV), is a major cause of liver cancer.
1969
Robert Huebner and George Todaro propose the oncogene hypothesis of cancer, which holds that cancer arises when certain genes (known as oncogenes) become activated by mutation or are expressed at abnormally high levels. They suggest further that oncogenes were originally part of the genetic material of viruses that was inserted into the human genome during evolution.

Baruch Blumberg and Irving Millman develop the first vaccine against HBV. They were awarded a patent for their discovery in 1972.
  • Updated: February 10, 2014