National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
October 20, 2009 • Volume 6 / Number 20

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Cancer Center Profile

University of Chicago Cancer Research Center

Director: Dr. Michelle M. Le Beau • 5841 South Maryland Avenue, MC1140, Chicago, IL 60637
Phone: 773-702-6180 • Web site:


Founded in 1973, the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center (UCCRC) is one of two NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in Illinois. The University of Chicago has been a leader in cancer research for many decades. Its scientists have made groundbreaking discoveries that have led to advances in chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, gene therapy, and bone marrow transplantation.

The Gwen and Jules Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery The Gwen and Jules Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery, which houses the UCCRC, opened in the summer of 2009.

In 1943, the University of Chicago’s Dr. Leon Jacobson performed the first successful cancer treatment using chemotherapy and demonstrated the potential of bone marrow transplantation. In FY 2009, UCCRC’s pediatric and adult bone marrow transplant programs performed 180 bone marrow transplants.

Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Charles Huggins discovered in 1966 that cells were not autonomous and self perpetuating, as previously believed, but were dependent on chemical signals, such as hormones, to grow and survive. His discoveries offered researchers new perspectives on the behavior of hormone-responsive cancers and redefined treatment of metastatic cancers.

Dr. Janet Rowley’s discoveries of recurring chromosomal abnormalities in leukemias and lymphomas revolutionized the understanding and treatment of cancer. President Barack Obama honored Dr. Rowley with the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, earlier this year.


Building on this tradition of excellence, the UCCRC laboratory research programs have made fundamental discoveries in the molecular genetics of cancers, cancer immunology, hormonal therapy, bone marrow transplantation, cell signaling, and advanced imaging techniques. Clinical researchers have made critical breakthroughs in the investigation of breast, head and neck, lung, kidney, and prostate cancers, leukemia, mesothelioma, and cancer genetics.

Prevention and control research at the UCCRC emphasizes identifying genetic risk factors for cancer, investigating potential chemoprevention agents, and studying early detection, health disparities, and quality-of-life issues. UCCRC members are world-renowned experts in advanced imaging, radiation treatment, the development of novel anticancer drugs, and pharmacogenomics.

Active UCCRC research programs include a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in breast cancer, participation in a SPORE in prostate cancer (with Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University), the Pharmacogenetics of Anticancer Agents Research Consortium (U01), a Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) in hematological malignancies, the Ludwig Center for Metastasis Research, a National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Center of Excellence in Research, and the Chicago Center for Systems Biology.

Patient Care

UCCRC offers the full range of specialty and primary care services for adults and children. The center had 25,300 admissions in FY 2009 and 150,000 patient days annually. Cancer patients make up a large portion of the patient base, with almost 5,000 new cancer patients annually. Cancer patients account for over 61,500 outpatient visits.

Advanced cancer care will be a priority of the 1.2 million-square-foot New Hospital Pavilion (NHP) that is currently under construction.

Translational Research

The NHP will be adjacent to two new research facilities. The 400,000-square-foot Ellen and Melvin Gordon Center for Integrative Science (GCIS), the university’s largest science building, opened in 2005. The GCIS is the home of the Ben May Department for Cancer Research. The Gordon Center brings scientists from the biological and physical sciences together under one roof, enabling new research collaborations.

The 330,000-square-foot Gwen and Jules Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery (KCBD), which is the home of the UCCRC, opened in 2009. This facility houses 22,000 square feet of wet lab space for UCCRC investigators, as well as the D.K. Ludwig Center for Metastasis Research and the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology. The proximity of the GCIS, KCBD, and NHP will encourage and facilitate interdisciplinary and translational research. The three facilities represent the continuum of research that transforms fundamental discoveries into advanced cancer care.