American Association for Cancer Research

AACR: A Brief History

Commemorating a Century of Leadership and Progress in Cancer Research

"Modern cancer research...fills a very urgent need without which, progress would be handicapped." —James Ewing, M.D., founding member and first AACR President

Cancer research thrives on collaboration which drives discovery, and in turn promotes further scientific partnership. The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has fostered this cooperative process for 100 years. As it is impossible to credit one person or entity for the advancement of cancer research, our Centennial commemoration honors all those individuals and organizations that have contributed to a century of leadership and progress in cancer research.

On May 7, 1907, eleven laboratory scientists and clinicians came together in a meeting room at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. to discuss the rapidly emerging field of cancer research, effectively forming the AACR. At this initial gathering these founding members recognized the growing need for understanding the causes of cancer and for improvements in cancer research and treatment, and they made a commitment to meet the challenges ahead.

As a result of the strong leadership and ingenuity of the founding members, including world-renowned pathologist Dr. James Ewing, discoverer of Ewing's Sarcoma, the first AACR Annual Meeting was held just six months later on November 15, 1907, in New York City.

By 1910, AACR membership had already expanded to more than 100 members and would continue to increase exponentially as well as geographically. As new breakthroughs in cancer research arose, new AACR programs were developed to nurture further discovery and interest in the many subdisciplines encompassed in the overall field of cancer science. One hundred years later, AACR has a membership of nearly 28,000 basic, translational and clinical cancer researchers in 80 countries. Its Annual Meeting is the world's premier scientific meeting in all aspects of cancer research, presenting over 6,000 groundbreaking research papers to an international audience of more than 17,000 researchers, advocates and friends of cancer research working in all sectors of the cancer field.

The Journal of Cancer Research was published quarterly from 1916 to 1930 (publishing was suspended from October 1922 to April 1924). It became the American Journal of Cancer and was published monthly from 1931 to 1940. The journal was renamed Cancer Research in 1941. Cancer Research is the most frequently cited cancer journal in the world. Priding itself on always having its finger on the pulse of cancer research, AACR currently publishes six scientific journals that provide targeted forums for the latest research discoveries in cancer etiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Recognizing that support for cancer research goes beyond the walls of a laboratory or a health care institution, AACR has developed synergistic partnerships with the cancer advocacy community. AACR has collaborated with communities of cancer advocates and has repeatedly spoken out in favor of increased funding for cancer research. These partnerships with the community have led to many important initiatives and events resulting in programs of importance to cancer scientists and patient advocates. The vision of AACR leaders is further reflected in the creation of the AACR Scientist↔Survivor Program in 1999, which unites researchers with patients and survivor advocates. This innovative program of partnership educates AACR scientist members about issues of importance to survivors, and it also provides advocates with new knowledge about cancer research – information that they need to advance the national dialogue on cancer.

Expanding upon these programs among advocates, in 2005 AACR launched CR, its first publication that serves and reaches all segments of the patient and scientist communities and that provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy. By devoting an entire arm of the organization to survivor and patient advocacy, AACR continues to raise public awareness of the progress in cancer research and the need for sustained federal research funding.

During the last 100 years, much has changed in the way we study and treat cancer. However, at the heart of the field of cancer research remains the tenets upon which the AACR was built – education, collaboration, communication, advocacy, and of course, research. It is through these essential vehicles that the cycle of progress in cancer research will continue.