Skip to Content


Making Cancer History: The Evolution of a Powerful Idea

M. D. Anderson Backgrounder 05/01/2010

Making Cancer History®: The Evolution of a Powerful Idea

Imagine a world without cancer. 

Since its founding in 1941, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has been working to do just that, transforming minds and lives through mission-directed endeavors in patient care, research, education and prevention

Cancer research has made great strides in the nearly 40 years since President Richard Nixon made cancer a national priority. Better treatments and prevention strategies are saving lives and hold the promise of saving even more. MD Anderson is advancing its mission to eradicate cancer as never before and, anticipating its 70th anniversary in 2011, is unveiling a distinctive logo that graphically articulates its mission of eliminating cancer and our ultimate goal: Making Cancer History®.

The iconic new logo is an expression of all that the institution represents, from the dedicated scientists, clinicians, employees and volunteers, to its unparalleled research and education programs and state-of-the-art therapies born of multidisciplinary care. Yet always at the heart of MD Anderson is its core focus on providing the best care possible for patients.

Formally adopted as a tagline in 1996, Making Cancer Historyprojects the institution’s mission and serves as a unifying call to action for everyone whose life MD Anderson touches. Soon afterwards, the symbol of eliminating cancer by striking through it with a red line was adopted in the institution’s advertising and fundraising campaigns.

While MD Anderson’s name and identity have evolved to reflect its growth, the cancer center has remained steadfast in pursuing its mission to eliminate cancer in Texas, the United States and the world.

Tracing the Evolution of MD Anderson’s Brand Identity
The institution known today as The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has had five names since it was founded.    

1941: Established by the Texas Legislature as the Texas State Cancer Hospital and the Division of Cancer Research.

In 1941, when the outlook was bleak for most cancer patients, Governor W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel signed a law that set the stage for a unique cancer treatment and research facility to serve the needs of Texas citizens. 

The philanthropic foundation established in the 1930s by Houston cotton merchant Monroe D. Anderson embraced the mission of the fledgling cancer facility, providing additional funding, temporary quarters in a residence called “The Oaks” and a permanent location in the newly formed Texas Medical Center. The hospital was placed under the jurisdiction of The University of Texas, ensuring a research and teaching mandate that characterized the institution from day one. 

1942: Renamed M. D. Anderson Hospital for Cancer Research of The University of Texas.

MD Anderson’s first employees – a business manager and four research scientists – arrived at The Oaks just before Christmas 1942. That same year, the UT Board of Regents incorporated Anderson’s name into the identity of the new facility as a tribute to his profound contribution. Sadly, the banker and cotton trader originally from Jackson, Tennessee, had died in 1939, never realizing what his wealth had created.

1955: Name changed to The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute at Houston.

By 1955, MD Anderson’s first full-time president, Randolph Lee Clark, M.D., had led the burgeoning hospital for nearly a decade toward becoming a comprehensive center, addressing cancer through programs in patient care, research and education.  At its permanent site in the Texas Medical Center, more than 13,000 patients had been treated, staff numbered nearly 400 and its cancer research and education programs were attracting the attention of the scientific world. In a strategic move to ensure that the institution could compete for federal research funding, Clark set in motion the next evolution of the name – adding “Tumor Institute” – underscoring its research mandate.

1972: A UT System reorganization led to the establishment of The University of Texas System Cancer Center to include M. D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute at Houston and the Science Park in Smithville.

In his 1971 State of the Union address, President Nixon declared a “war on cancer” and within the year, signed the National Cancer Act into law, infusing millions of dollars into cancer research. Federal designation as one of the nation’s first three NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers brought MD Anderson more acclaim. The new name never really took hold, and most people continued to refer to The University of Texas System Cancer Center as M. D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute.

1988: Name changed to The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center to once again incorporate the worldwide name recognition associated with MD Anderson.

In 1988, during the tenure of MD Anderson’s second president Charles A. LeMaistre, M.D., the Board of Regents approved The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center as the new name. The change reflected the institution’s comprehensive nature – including being in the vanguard on prevention – made the well-known MD Anderson name more prominent, and affirmed its place within the UT System. For the first time, MD Anderson adopted a word mark logo, reflecting its strength and achievement, united under a single identity. 

In 1995, in what was then a revolutionary move, the state legislature enacted legislation that gave patients the ability to seek their own appointments at MD Anderson without a physician’s referral. A year later, under the leadership of John Mendelsohn, M.D., the institution’s third president, MD Anderson created and adopted the memorable Making Cancer History signature tagline, created by The Richards Group, a Dallas-based advertising agency.

The phrase was a powerful double entendre: consigning the disease to history would make history. Designed to convey its core mission, promise and stature, the few words encapsulated the essence and determination of MD Anderson and quickly became an integral part of its culture and communications.

The signature also inspired a compelling visual representation – the word “cancer” with a red strikethrough – which symbolized how MD Anderson motivates patients to put cancer in their past. The symbol was introduced in advertising and fundraising campaigns and served as a trademark for MD Anderson for nearly a decade.

MD Anderson’s new logo integrates the red strikethrough into its name. A comprehensive visual identity system ensures that the brand consistently applies to the identities of all MD Anderson locations and affiliate relationships, including regional care centers and other collaborations in the United States and internationally. The identities of the Children’s Cancer Hospital at MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Children’s Art Project also incorporate the new logo and strikethrough graphic symbol. 

Progress Paves the Way to the Future

Just decades ago, cancer treatments were largely radical and debilitating, and patients had few options.  Today, cancer is in many cases manageable as a chronic disease; prevention education
is ingrained in nearly every aspect of daily life, and many patients approach treatment decisions
as knowledgeable health care consumers.

A pioneer of medical science since 1941, MD Anderson has helped set the national and worldwide standard for advancing cancer research and patient care. Its success is validated by breakthrough research, independent rankings and patient outcomes. 








As MD Anderson moves into its eighth decade, it does so with a brand identity that is emblematic of the simple but powerful idea upon which it was founded – and which continues to inspire and guide.

By itself, a logo or word mark has no meaning. For MD Anderson, the new logo epitomizes its past, its present and the world’s future without cancer.

© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center