Senator Norris Cotton looks over the original designs for the Cancer Center
Senator Norris Cotton (left) looks over the original designs for the Cancer Center.

Foundations of a great cancer center

The National Cancer Act of 1971 provided the foundation for what became the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health 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.

Cancer care comes to New Hampshire

Senator Norris Cotton, who represented New Hampshire in the United States Congress from 1947 to 1974, wanted to bring to New Hampshire the same advanced cancer care available in more urban areas. In 1971, Senator Cotton secured federal funding to build the initial component of a new cancer center. A year later, Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) opened its doors. Located at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital on Maynard Street in Hanover, NH, NCCC started as a two-story underground facility for radiation therapy and related laboratories and services.

Soon after, in 1974, under the leadership of Dr. O. Ross McIntyre, Professor of Medicine, NCCC branched out into medical oncology, surgical oncology, pediatric oncology, diagnostic radiology, pathology, biomedical engineering, screening, detection and pharmacology.

In 1978, NCCC was approved and funded as an NCI-designated Cancer Center. NCCC has successfully renewed this core grant every three to five years since 1978, putting the center into its 5th decade of continuous funding and designation by the NCI. In 1990, NCCC was designated by the NCI as a Comprehensive Cancer Center in recognition of the breadth and excellence of its programs in cancer prevention, detection, treatment, research and education.

In 1991, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) moved from Hanover to Lebanon, NH. NCCC opened out-patient services on the Lebanon campus in a newly built two-story cancer facility, the Barbara E. Rubin Building. In-patient services also began in the One West pavilion of DHMC.

Each director of NCCC has contributed to expansion of the facility and evolution of patient services. A strong partnership with Dartmouth College for clinical and laboratory research enterprises has also put today’s NCCC on a level playing field with the top cancer centers in the country.

In 2005, NCCC expanded to Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Manchester, NH, and opened NCCC North in St. Johnsbury, VT, in collaboration with seven community hospitals. NCCC has since expanded to five clinical locations in NH and VT and many member organizations and regional affiliated hospitals.

Today, as one of only 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers nationwide, and the only one in northern New England, NCCC’s commitment to our communities remains to strive for excellence, outreach and education through innovative research and personalized, compassionate patient-centered cancer care close to the comfort of home.

Read an early history of Norris Cotton Cancer Center (PDF)