The National Cancer Institute (NCI) 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 coordinates the U.S. National Cancer Program and 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.

On June 10, 2017, President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to appoint Norman Sharpless as director of the National Cancer Institute.

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[2] at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland. The NCI receives more than $5 billion in funding each year.[3]

The NCI supports a nationwide network of 69 NCI-designated Cancer Centers with a dedicated focus on cancer research and treatment[4] and maintains the National Clinical Trials Network.[5]


An early wooden sign for the National Cancer Institute

Anti-cancer drug investigations

The NCI played an early role in the discovery of anti-cancer drugs in the U.S. According to a 1996 NCI analysis of drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), two-thirds of the anti-cancer drugs approved as of the end of 1995 were NCI-sponsored Investigational New Drugs:[7]

Alkylating agents


Plant alkaloids and antibiotics
Synthetic drugs

Hormones and steroids



The NCI is divided into several divisions and centers.[8]


  • Center for Cancer Research
The CCR includes approximately 250 internal NCI research groups in Frederick and Bethesda.[9]
  • Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics
DCEG is divided into the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program and the Human Genetics Program.[10]


  • Division of Cancer Biology
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.[11] "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.[12]
  • Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences
  • Division of Cancer Prevention
  • Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis
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.[13]
  • Division of Extramural Activities
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.[14]

Office of the director

  • Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology
  • Center for Cancer Genomics
CCG was created in 2011 and is responsible for management of The Cancer Genome Atlas and cancer genomics initiatives.
  • Center for Cancer Training
  • Center for Global Health
  • Center for Strategic Scientific 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.[15]
  • Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities
  • Center for Research Strategy
  • Coordinating Center for Clinical Trials
  • Technology Transfer Center


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.[16][17]

The NCI cancer centers program was introduced in 1971 with 15 participating institutions.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]

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.[21]

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.[22]

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.[1]

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.


Director In office Notes
Carl Voegtlin[23] 1938-1943
Roscoe Roy Spencer 1943-1947
Leonard Andrew Scheele 1947-1948 Served 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 1995-2001 11th 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.[24]
Andrew C. von Eschenbach 2002-2006 12th Director, served from 2001 to 2006 before transitioning to a role as Commissioner of Food and Drugs.[25][26]
John E. Niederhuber 2006-2010 13th Director of the NCI, was nominated by President George W. Bush.[27]
Harold Varmus 2010-2015 Co-winner of the Nobel Prize for studies of the genetic basis of cancer.[28] He was director of the National Institutes of Health from 1993 to 1999.
Douglas R. Lowy (Acting) 2015-

Notable NCI faculty

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Director's Page - National Cancer Institute". Cancer.gov. Retrieved 2015-04-01. 
  2. ^ "NCI-Frederick: NCI-Frederick Home Page". Ncifcrf.gov. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  3. ^ https://www.cancer.gov/about-nci/budget/fact-book/historical-trends/funding
  4. ^ https://www.cancer.gov/research/nci-role/cancer-centers
  5. ^ https://www.cancer.gov/research/areas/clinical-trials/nctn
  6. ^ https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/what-we-do/nih-almanac/national-cancer-institute-nci#events
  7. ^ "Affidavit of James Love". www.cptech.org. Retrieved 2017-05-09. 
  8. ^ https://www.cancer.gov/about-nci/organization#divisions
  9. ^ https://ccr.cancer.gov/about
  10. ^ http://dceg.cancer.gov
  11. ^ https://www.cancer.gov/about-nci/organization/dcb/research-portfolio
  12. ^ https://www.cancer.gov/about-nci/organization/dcb
  13. ^ https://dctd.cancer.gov/About/default.htm
  14. ^ https://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/aboutDEA.htm
  15. ^ https://cssi.cancer.gov/about/history
  16. ^ https://www.cancer.gov/research/nci-role/cancer-centers
  17. ^ https://cancercenters.cancer.gov/
  18. ^ https://www.cancer.gov/research/nci-role/cancer-centers/history
  19. ^ https://www.cancer.gov/research/areas/clinical-trials/nctn
  20. ^ "Welcome to the Developmental Therapeutics Program". Developmental Therapeutics Program. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved 6 January 2018. 
  21. ^ "Discovery & Development Services". Developmental Therapeutics Program. National Cancer Institute. 26 August 2015. Retrieved 6 January 2018. 
  22. ^ "Molecular Targets". Developmental Therapeutics Program. National Cancer Institute. 12 May 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2018. 
  23. ^ https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/what-we-do/nih-almanac/national-cancer-institute-nci#director
  24. ^ "Dr. Richard D. Klausner Named Executive Director of Global Health for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation". 
  25. ^ U.S. Congress (7 December 2006). "Executive Session". Congressional Record. 152 (134): S11404–29, S11447–51. Retrieved 2006-12-12. 
  26. ^ Senate Vote No. 274
  27. ^ "Emergent Biosolutions - Board of Directors bio". Retrieved 2013-12-06. 
  28. ^ "Director's Page - National Cancer Institute (Archive)". Cancer.gov. Archived from the original on 2015-03-31. Retrieved 2015-04-02. 

General references

External links