The history of making cancer history
At MD Anderson, everything we do revolves around our patients, which is why we’ve been ranked the nation’s top cancer hospital for nine of the past 10 years. Since 1944, more than 1.2 million people have turned to us for cancer care. The institution has changed the world by turning research discoveries into life-saving care. Through its Moon Shots Program™, these breakthroughs are being converted into clinical advances more quickly than ever. Here are some of the highlights of what’s been accomplished over the past 75 years.
The Texas Legislature votes to establish a state cancer hospital devoted to research and treatment. It’s placed under the jurisdiction of The University of Texas and its Board of Regents.
M. D. Anderson Hospital for Cancer Research is dedicated on February 17. On March 1, the hospital, with fewer than 25 full-time employees, takes in its first patient in a makeshift clinic at the Baker Estate. Admission is limited to indigent Texas residents without treatment facilities in their home communities, though staff seek to make the hospital available to all Texans as quickly as possible.
Physician R. Lee Clark, M.D., is appointed director and surgeon-in-chief. Clark immediately begins planning for permanent facilities.
English physicist Leonard Grimmett, M.D., arrives to work with French-born physician Gilbert Fletcher, M.D. Within months, they design a 1,000-Curie cobalt-60 unit that will revolutionize radiation therapy.
The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission approves Fletcher and Grimmett’s original concept for the cobalt-60 unit. The machines deliver more effective, less expensive radiation therapy and will eventually be used in nearly all of the world’s hospitals.
Forty-six patients from the Baker Estate are moved to the new hospital in the Texas Medical Center. The 320,000 square-foot facility has 310 beds and is hailed as the most modern hospital in the nation.
Emil J Freireich, M.D., designs the continuous-flow blood cell separator, which greatly improves the process of removing white blood cells from donor blood. The technique will later be adapted for both immunotherapy and bone marrow transplantation. Soon after, Freireich, a legendary figure in oncology, joins MD Anderson.
A landmark study shows the effectiveness of mammography in detecting early breast cancers, paving the way for routine use of screening mammograms for women throughout the world.
Wataru Sutow, M.D., greatly improves survival rates for children with Wilms’ tumor by introducing the first successful chemotherapy to treat the inoperable kidney cancer.
Microscopes such as this one were used in the study of tumor virology, a field that has led to breakthrough discoveries and a better understanding of cancer over the years. These discoveries have resulted in improved treatments and ways to prevent many forms of the disease.
The effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy are tested on mice in the Department of Experimental Radiotherapy.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) selects MD Anderson to become the headquarters for a new program designed to make sure radiation dosimetry is uniform at all institutions participating in NCI cooperative clinical trials. The Radiological Physics Center establishes MD Anderson as a primary radiation physics resource for hospitals throughout the U.S.
President Richard Nixon declares war on cancer by signing the National Cancer Act, which appropriates millions of dollars to cancer research. The majority of funds are designated for NCI recognized “comprehensive cancer centers,” of which MD Anderson is one of the first three.
Isaiah Fidler, D.V.M, Ph.D., finds that cancerous tumors are composed of many distinct cell types. Fidler proposes and confirms that metastasis is a nonrandom event unique to specific cell types within a tumor environment, a breakthrough that will transform the study of tumors, drug development and targeted cancer treatments. He will bring his research to MD Anderson and continue on as one of the foremost experts on cancer metastasis.
MD Anderson demonstrates in clinical studies that “lumpectomy” followed by radiation therapy for breast cancer can be as effective as radical surgical mastectomy. The new procedure becomes a worldwide standard and replaces the highly invasive and widely practiced radical mastectomy.
MD Anderson physicians collaborate with the IBM Corporation to develop and introduce a simplified blood cell separator for practical use in small hospitals. The machine revolutionizes the availability and use of blood component therapy throughout the U.S.
With a $2.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, installation of the country’s first medical cyclotron began.
Gabriel Lopez-Berestein, M.D., develops an antifungal, liposomal-encapsulated agent for the treatment of potentially life-threatening systemic fungal infections, common among patients with reduced immunity due to chemotherapy. Berestein’s development is an incredible advancement, as regular antibiotics have proven too toxic for cancer patients to withstand.
A team directed by Waun Ki Hong, M.D., proves the effectiveness of chemoprevention by showing that synthetic vitamin A can significantly reduce the incidence of second primary tumors in head and neck cancer patients.
MD Anderson becomes the first hospital in the country to open an operating room that includes a linear accelerator to treat tumors with electron beam radiotherapy during surgery.
The National Institutes of Health gives MD Anderson approval to conduct gene therapy trials for patients with lung cancer. MD Anderson doctors use gene therapy for ovarian and breast cancer patients, and within six years, the techniques will be applied to multiple types of cancer.
Scientists at MD Anderson invent the concept of varying the intensity of radiation beams, leading to the revolutionary development of intensitymodulated radiation therapy, in which radiation doses are tightly conformed in three dimensions to the shape of the tumor.
The Texas Legislature approves Senate Bill 192, allowing patients to refer themselves to MD Anderson. In addition to self-referral, the measure helps the institution become more competitive in the area of managed care.
The institution’s first international partnership, MD Anderson Madrid, opens, giving patients access to many MD Anderson clinical trials closer to home, and allowing specialists at each center to exchange expertise in clinical care and basic science research.
MD Anderson pioneers the first pencil beam scanning capability in the nation’s most advanced proton therapy facility. The precise treatment builds upon proton therapy, which uses protons to deliver radiation directly to a tumor, leaving surrounding healthy tissue unharmed.
A team of MD Anderson researchers demonstrates the effectiveness of two new drugs, dasatinib and nilotinib, in Gleevec-resistant chronic myelocytic leukemia, leading to FDA approval.
An experimental drug developed at MD Anderson is able to starve human neuroblastoma cells by shutting down their energy source. The drug, 3-BrOP, is found to reduce tumor growth by more than 75% as a single agent. Pre-clinically, this drug has proven effective against other cancers, including glioblastoma, colon cancer, lymphoma and acute leukemia.
James Allison, Ph.D., a pioneer in the innovative field of immunotherapy, joins MD Anderson to lead critical immunology research and work with the Moon Shots Program™. Allison’s groundbreaking discoveries have led the way for oncologists to unleash the immune system to attack cancer.
Juan Fueyo, M.D., and Candelaria Gomez-Manzano, M.D., create an experimental therapy that genetically modifies the adenovirus that causes the common cold, transforming it into a cancer-seeking missile that attacks brain tumors.