50th Anniversary of the National Cancer Act

NCA - National Cancer Act 50th anniversary logo

Fifty years ago, the National Cancer Act was signed into legislation, changing the face of cancer research and care forever. The legislation represented the US commitment to what President Nixon described as the “war on cancer,” which had become the nation’s second leading cause of death.

As a result of the action which will come into being as a result of signing this bill, the Congress is totally committed to provide the funds that are necessary, whatever is necessary, for the conquest of cancer.

President Richard Nixon, Signing of the National Cancer Act, 1971

The act also laid the foundation for what became the National Cancer Institute in its current form, and the cancer centers across the country that the NCI supports, including right here at Dartmouth’s and Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC). In addition to world-class patient care, NCCC scientists have positioned themselves in the front lines of the country’s most innovative research—ideas and action that come together to make the biggest difference in cancer prevention, diagnostics, and treatment and ultimately in finding a cure.

Just of few of NCCC’s areas of innovation include:


  • Using cowpea mosaic plant virus (CPMV) in the development of a vaccine for ovarian and other cancers, Steven N. Fiering, PhD, is working on clinical development of CPMV as a biological drug for the treatment of cancer. Fiering states “Virtually nobody is thinking of using a plant virus as a therapeutic in humans. We are in a position to lead the charge.” 
  • In this animated video, Charles Sentman, PhD, provides a unique take on explaining how CAR T-cell therapy works.

Cancer research training

  • Mother, mentor, scientist, entrepreneur. Holding seven patents that range from diagnostic biomarkers and potential treatments for brain tumors to tiny wireless devices to detect cancer and deliver targeted therapies, Arti Gaur, PhD, also co-founded a company that is developing wireless nanoscale sensors that can be implanted in the body to monitor signs of health and disease—and ultimately detect cancers early. Her message to her students: “Make sure the consequences of your discoveries reach humanity.”
  • Translational research is a particular strength of the NCCC research enterprise. Dartmouth Innovations Accelerator for Cancer is helping Dartmouth and NCCC scientists bring biomedical discoveries directly to the marketplace for the benefit of cancer patients and will provide students with opportunities in biomedical entrepreneurship.

Clinical trials networks

Rare cancers and molecular medicine

  • Mutations, medications and persistence. Next-generation sequencing at NCCC discovers a rare form of pancreatic cancer and a rare mutation in one patient that sends her care team into unchartered waters determined to find a solution.

In their article 'Why Commemorate 50 Years of the National Cancer Act?' the NCI writes about this historic anniversary and how the National Cancer Act paved the way for the cancer care and research of today.