National Cancer Institute

Last updated
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Agency overview
FormedAugust 5, 1937;82 years ago (1937-08-05)
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
HeadquartersOffice of the Director,
31 Center Drive, Building 31, Bethesda, Maryland,
Agency executive
Parent department United States Department of Health and Human Services
Parent agency National Institutes of Health
Child agencies
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) coordinates the United States National Cancer Program and is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is one of eleven agencies that are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NCI conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other activities related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer; the supportive care of cancer patients and their families; and cancer survivorship.

National Institutes of Health Medical research organization in the United States

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research. It was founded in the late 1870s, and is now part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The majority of NIH facilities are located in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIH conducts its own scientific research through its Intramural Research Program (IRP) and provides major biomedical research funding to non-NIH research facilities through its Extramural Research Program.


On October 17, 2017, Norman Edward “Ned” Sharpless, M.D., was sworn in as the 15th director of the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Sharpless held the position until April 2019, when he became the acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs. [6] On April 8, 2019, Douglas R. Lowy, M.D., became the NCI Acting Director, a role he previously served in from April 2015 to October 2017. [7]

Norman Sharpless

Norman "Ned" Sharpless is the current acting FDA Commissioner and the former Director of the National Cancer Institute. In March 2019, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced that Sharpless would serve as acting FDA Commissioner. Sharpless was the former Professor of Medicine and Genetics Chair, Director of University of North Carolina UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Molecular Therapeutics, Wellcome Distinguished Professorship in Cancer Research. He has published numerous papers that show the role of p16INK4a in shutting down the stem cells that renew the body's various tissues. He is also one of the founders of G1 Therapeutics, listed $GTHX under the NASDAQ, which is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing, small-molecule therapies that address significant unmet needs in the treatment of cancer. Extending upon this work, Sharpless' team developed the p16LUC model, a genetically engineered mouse that 'glows' upon activation of the p16INK4a promoter due to insertion of firefly luciferase in place of the endogenous gene. Use of this system revealed the activation of p16INK4a in tissues surrounding nascent tumors, allowing scientists to non-invasively visualize the formation and progression of spontaneous cancers in living animals. Furthermore, this allele has made it feasible to better understand aging toxicology. Specifically, Ned's lab has used the p16LUC allele to understand how low dose toxic exposure over a lifetime can affect the rate of molecular aging. He is also a founder of Sapere Bio, a clinical-phase biotechnology company measuring physiologic reserve to improve healthcare.

Commissioner of Food and Drugs

The United States Commissioner of Food and Drugs is the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The commissioner is appointed by the president of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. The commissioner reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Douglas R. Lowy cancer researcher

Douglas R. Lowy is the Acting Director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Chief of the Laboratory of Cellular Oncology within the Center for Cancer Research at NCI. Lowy previously served as Acting Director of NCI between April 2015-October 2017. On April 8, 2019, he again became Acting Director as Director Norman Sharpless transitioned to serve as the Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Lowy served as Deputy Director of the NCI since 2015, alongside former directors Harold E. Varmus and Sharpless. Lowy was co-recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2014 and the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award in 2017.

NCI is the oldest and has the largest budget and research program of the 27 institutes and centers of the NIH. It fulfills the majority of its mission via an extramural program that provides grants for cancer research. Additionally, the National Cancer Institute has intramural research programs in Bethesda, Maryland and at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research [8] at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland. The NCI receives more than US$5 billion in funding each year. [9]

NIH Intramural Research Program

The NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) is the internal research program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), known for its synergistic approach to biomedical science. With 1,200 Principal Investigators and over 4,000 Postdoctoral Fellows conducting basic, translational, and clinical research, the NIH Intramural Research Program is the largest biomedical research institution on earth. The unique funding environment of the IRP facilitates opportunities to conduct both long-term and high-impact science that would otherwise be difficult to undertake. With rigorous external reviews ensuring that only the most outstanding research secures funding, the IRP is responsible for many scientific accomplishments, including the discovery of fluoride to prevent tooth decay, the use of lithium to manage bipolar disorder, and the creation of vaccines against hepatitis, Hemophilus influenzae (HIB), and human papillomavirus (HPV). In addition, the IRP has also produced or trained 21 Nobel Prize-winning scientists.

Bethesda, Maryland Census-designated place in Maryland, United States

Bethesda is an unincorporated, census-designated place in southern Montgomery County, Maryland, United States, located just northwest of the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C. It takes its name from a local church, the Bethesda Meeting House, which in turn took its name from Jerusalem's Pool of Bethesda. The National Institutes of Health main campus and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center are in Bethesda, as are a number of corporate and government headquarters.

The Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR) is a United States federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) supported by the National Cancer Institute and managed by the private contractor Leidos Biomedical Research. The institution was originally established under the name Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center in 1972 as a component of President Richard Nixon's War on Cancer initiative. In 2012, the institution received a national laboratory designation and assumed its current name, becoming the only U.S. national laboratory exclusively dedicated to biomedical research. The campus in Frederick, Maryland also houses National Cancer Institute laboratories and administrative organizations, and is colloquially referred to as NCI-Frederick.

The NCI supports a nationwide network of 71 NCI-designated Cancer Centers with a dedicated focus on cancer research and treatment [10] and maintains the National Clinical Trials Network. [11]

NCI-designated Cancer Centers are a group of 71 cancer research institutions in the United States supported by the National Cancer Institute.



An early wooden sign for the National Cancer Institute Wooden sign.jpg
An early wooden sign for the National Cancer Institute
Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd president of the United States

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often referred to by the initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A member of the Democratic Party, he won a record four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century. Roosevelt directed the federal government during most of the Great Depression, implementing his New Deal domestic agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. As a dominant leader of his party, he built the New Deal Coalition, which realigned American politics into the Fifth Party System and defined American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. His third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II, which ended shortly after he died in office. He is rated by scholars as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but has also been subject to substantial criticism.

United States Public Health Service division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerned with public health

The United States Public Health Service (USPHS) is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services concerned with public health. It contains eight out of the department's eleven operating divisions. The Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH) oversees the PHS. The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC) is the federal uniformed service of the USPHS, and is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.

<i>Journal of the National Cancer Institute</i> peer-reviewed scientific journal

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) is a peer-reviewed medical journal covering research in oncology that was established in August 1940. It is published monthly by Oxford University Press and is edited by Patricia Ganz. It was merged with Cancer Treatment Reports in January 1988. JNCI used to be the official journal of the National Cancer Institute (NCI); however, in 1996, the NCI and JNCI agreed to grow apart. Over the next five years, JNCI became independent of the NCI.

Anti-cancer drug investigations

Alkylating agents
Cyclophosphamide Cyclophosphamide structure.svg
Chlorambucil chemical compound

Chlorambucil, sold under the brand name Leukeran among others, is a chemotherapy medication used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), Hodgkin lymphoma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. For CLL it is a preferred treatment. It is given by mouth.

Cyclophosphamide Medication used as chemotherapy and to suppress the immune system

Cyclophosphamide (CP), also known as cytophosphane among other names, is a medication used as chemotherapy and to suppress the immune system. As chemotherapy it is used to treat lymphoma, multiple myeloma, leukemia, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, small cell lung cancer, neuroblastoma, and sarcoma. As an immune suppressor it is used in nephrotic syndrome, granulomatosis with polyangiitis, and following organ transplant, among other conditions. It is taken by mouth or injection into a vein.

Thiotepa is an alkylating agent used to treat cancer.


Plant alkaloids and antibiotics
Vincristine Vincristine.svg


The NCI is divided into several divisions and centers. [17]


The CCR includes approximately 250 internal NCI research groups in Frederick and Bethesda. [18]
DCEG is divided into the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program and the Human Genetics Program. [19]


DCB oversees approximately 2000 grants per year in the areas of cancer cell biology; cancer immunology, hematology, and etiology; DNA and chromosome aberrations; structural biology and molecular applications; tumor biology and microenvironment; and tumor metastasis. [20] "Special Research Programs" falling under the aegis of the DCB include: Physical Sciences-Oncology Network, Cancer Systems Biology Consortium, Oncology Models Forum, Barrett's Esophagus Translational Research Network, New Approaches to Synthetic Lethality for Mutant KRAS-Dependent Cancers, Molecular and Cellular Characterization of Screen-Detected Lesions, Fusion Oncoproteins in Childhood Cancers, and Cancer Tissue Engineering Collaborative. [21]
DCTD supports eight research programs: The Biometric Research Program, The Cancer Diagnosis Program, The Cancer Imaging Program, The Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program, The Developmental Therapeutics Program, The Radiation Research Program, The Translational Research Program, and The Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine. [22]
DEA processes and supports the thousands of grant applications NCI receives each year and compiles reports on the progress of research funded by the NCI's programs. [23]

Office of the director

CCG was created in 2011 and is responsible for management of The Cancer Genome Atlas and cancer genomics initiatives.
In the 1990s, the Unconventional Innovation Program was created to integrate interdisciplinary technology research with biological applications. It was reorganized in 2004 as the CSSI. [24]


NCI-designated Cancer Centers

The NCI-designated Cancer Centers are one of the primary arms in the NCI's mission in supporting cancer research. There are currently 69 so-designated centers; 13 clinical cancer centers, 49 comprehensive cancer centers, and 7 basic laboratory cancer centers. NCI supports these centers with grant funding in the form of P30 Cancer Center Support Grants to support shared research resources and interdisciplinary programs. Additionally, faculty at the cancer centers receive approximately 75% of the grant funding awarded by the NCI to individual investigators. [10] [25]

The NCI cancer centers program was introduced in 1971 with 15 participating institutions. [26]

National Clinical Trials Network

The NCTN was formed in 2014, from the Cooperative Group program to modernize the existing system to support precision medicine clinical trials. With precision medicine, a large number of patients must be screened to determine eligibility for treatments in development.

Lead Academic Participating Sites (LAPS) were chosen at 30 academic institutions for their ability to conduct clinical trials and screen a large number of participants and awarded grants to support the infrastructure and administration required for clinical trials. Most LAPS grant recipients are also NCI-designated cancer centers. [11] NCTN also stores surgical tissue from patients in a nationwide network of tissue banks at various universities.

Developmental Therapeutics Program

The NCI Development Therapeutics Program (DTP) provides services and resources to the academic and private-sector research communities worldwide to facilitate the discovery and development of new cancer therapeutic agents. [27]

Under the label "Discovery & Development Services" several services are offered, among them the NCI-60 human cancer cell line screen and the Molecular Target Program. [28]

In the Molecular Target Program thousands of molecular targets have been measured in the NCI panel of 60 human tumor cell lines. Measurements include protein levels, RNA measurements, mutation status and enzyme activity levels. [29]

NCI-60 Human Tumor Cell Lines Screen

The evolution of strategies at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) illustrates the changes in screening that have resulted from advances in cancer biology. The Developmental Therapeutics Program (DTP) operates a tiered anti-cancer compound screening program with the goal of identifying novel chemical leads and biological mechanisms. The DTP screen is a three phase screen which includes: an initial screen which first involves a single dose cytotoxicity screen with the 60 cell line assay. Those passing certain thresholds are subjected to a 5 dose screen of the same 60 cell-line panel to determine a more detailed picture of the biological activity. A second phase screen establishes the maximum tolerable dosage and involves in vivo examination of tumor regression using the hollow fiber assay. The third phase of the study is the human tumor xenograft evaluation.

Active compounds are selected for testing based on several criteria: disease type specificity in the in vitro assay, unique structure, potency, and demonstration of a unique pattern of cellular cytotoxicity or cytostasis, indicating a unique mechanism of action or intracellular target.

A high correlation of cytotoxicity with compounds of known biological mechanism is often predictive of the drugs mechanism of action and thus a tool to aid in the drug development and testing. It also tells if there is any unique response of the drug which is not similar to any of the standard prototype compounds in the NCI database.


Carl Voegtlin [30] 1938–1943
Roscoe Roy Spencer 1943–1947
Leonard Andrew Scheele 1947–1948Served as the seventh Surgeon General of the United States from 1948 to 1956.
John Roderick Heller 1948–1960
Kenneth Millo Endicott 1960–1969
Carl Gwin Baker 1970–1972
Frank Joesph Rauscher, Jr. 1972–1976
Arthur Canfield Upton 1977–1980
Vincent T. DeVita, Jr. 1980–1988
Samuel Broder 1988–1995
Richard D. Klausner 1995–200111th Director, left to become President of the Case Institute of Health, Science, and Technology and later Executive Director of Global Health for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. [31]
Andrew C. von Eschenbach 2002–200612th Director, served from 2001 to 2006 before transitioning to a role as Commissioner of Food and Drugs. [32] [33]
John E. Niederhuber 2006–201013th Director of the NCI, was nominated by President George W. Bush. [34]
Harold Varmus 2010–2015Co-winner of the Nobel Prize for studies of the genetic basis of cancer. [35] He was director of the National Institutes of Health from 1993 to 1999.
Norman E. Sharpless October 2017–April 201915th Director of the NCI. [36] [37]    Transitioned to acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs in April 2019.
Douglas R. Lowy (Acting)April 8, 2019 –Previously served as Acting Director April 2015 through October 2017. Serving as NCI's deputy director since September 2010. [38]

Notable NCI faculty

See also

Notes and references

  1. "Director's Page". National Cancer Institute. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  2. "NCI Director Dr. Norman E. Sharpless—Director's Page—Leadership—About NCI". National Cancer Institute. 18 December 2018. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  3. "Dr Norman Edward Sharpless, MD, NIH Enterprise Directory (NED)". Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  4. "Visitor Information". National Cancer Institute. 1980-01-01. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  5. NCI's Shady Grove Campus To Open In 2013. NIH Record. LXII. 2 April 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2019. The change is being made primarily due to the leases expiring at EPN, EPS and a few other buildings on Executive Blvd. The new buildings would house, in one facility, staff from those leased sites... NCI will continue to occupy floors 10 and 11 of Bldg. 31’s A wing, as well as much of the 3rd floor, and the NCI director will remain in 31. There are also many staff members in lab buildings and the Clinical Center on campus and a large presence in Frederick at Ft. Detrick.
  6. Kaplan, Sheila (2019-03-12). "National Cancer Chief, Ned Sharpless, Named F.D.A.'s Acting Commissioner". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2019-08-14.
  7. Affairs, HHS Public (2019-03-12). "Current NCI Deputy Director @NCIDrDoug will serve as Acting Director of @theNCI". @SpoxHHS. Retrieved 2019-08-14.
  8. "NCI-Frederick: NCI-Frederick Home Page". Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  9. "Funding Trends". National Cancer Institute. 2018-12-20.
  10. 1 2 "NCI-Designated Cancer Centers". National Cancer Institute. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  11. 1 2 "NCI's National Clinical Trials Network". National Cancer Institute. 2014-05-29.
  12. "National Cancer Institute Act: Text of the Act of August 5, 1937, creating the National Cancer Institute and authorizing an appropriation therefor". JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 19 (2): 133–137. 1 August 1957. doi:10.1093/jnci/19.2.133. ISSN   0027-8874.
  13. "Statutes at Large Volume 50 (1937) Table of Contents; VOL. 49 – VOL. 51". Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  14. "75th Congress Public Law 244" (PDF). Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  15. "Statute 50 Page 559" (PDF). Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  16. December 13, 2016—Important Events in NCI History—National Cancer Institute (NCI). NIH Almanac. 18 October 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  17. "NCI Organization". National Cancer Institute. 1980-01-01.
  18. "About CCR". 21 July 2014.
  19. "DCEG Home". Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics – National Cancer Institute. 1980-01-01.
  20. "DCB Research Portfolio". National Cancer Institute. 2016-08-08.
  21. "Division of Cancer Biology". National Cancer Institute. 2016-08-08.
  22. "About DCTD – DCTD".
  23. "About NCI Division of Extramural Activities".
  24. "History – Center for Strategic Scientific Initiatives (CSSI)".
  25. "OCC Homepage – OCCWebApp 2.1.0".
  26. "History of the NCI Cancer Centers Program". National Cancer Institute. 2012-08-13.
  27. "Welcome to the Developmental Therapeutics Program". Developmental Therapeutics Program . National Cancer Institute. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  28. "Discovery & Development Services". Developmental Therapeutics Program . National Cancer Institute. 26 August 2015. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  29. "Molecular Targets". Developmental Therapeutics Program . National Cancer Institute. 12 May 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  30. "National Cancer Institute (NCI)". 7 July 2015.
  31. "Dr. Richard D. Klausner Named Executive Director of Global Health for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation".
  32. U.S. Congress (7 December 2006). "Executive Session". Congressional Record. 152 (134): S11404–29, S11447–51. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  33. "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 109th Congress – 2nd Session".
  34. "Emergent Biosolutions – Board of Directors bio" . Retrieved 2013-12-06.
  35. "Director's Page – National Cancer Institute (Archive)". Archived from the original on 2015-03-31. Retrieved 2015-04-02.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  36. "NCI Director Dr. Norman E. Sharpless—Director's Page—Leadership—About NCI". National Cancer Institute. 18 December 2018. Retrieved 1 January 2019.[ verification needed ]
  37. "Dr Norman Edward Sharpless, MD, NIH Enterprise Directory (NED)". Retrieved 2 January 2019.[ verification needed ]
  38. "NCI Deputy Director—Leadership—About US". National Cancer Institute. 14 August 2018. Retrieved 2 January 2019.[ verification needed ]

General references

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