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Landmarks in Cancer Research: 1991-2010

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  • Fifteen U.S. departments and agencies join to create the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, informally known as the “Common Rule.”
  • Specific mutation in p53 in liver cancer is associated with exposure to the environmental carcinogen aflatoxin.
    Mutations in codon 249 of p53 in hepatocellular carcinoma, a cancer endemic to locations in southern Africa and Asia, were shown to be associated with aflatoxin exposure. (179-181)


  • American Cancer Society recommends widespread use of prostate-specific antigen test for prostate cancer.
  • PD1 gene is discovered.
    A gene encoding the protein PD-1 was discovered in a screen for proteins likely to be involved in controlling T-cell apoptosis. This protein has become a key cancer immunotherapy target since preventing it from binding to its ligands enhances T-cell anticancer activity. (182)
  • Comparative genomic hybridization is developed.
    A new technique allowed changes in genome copy number to be mapped onto normal representations of the human genome. Initial mapping representations were metaphase chromosomes, but these have now been supplanted by a wide range of microarray technologies, including some that allow allele-specific analysis. (183-185)
  • The inaugural AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention is presented to Pelayo Correa.
  • First AACR Workshop, “Molecular Biology in Clinical Oncology,” is held in Aspen, Colorado.
  • Mammography Quality Standards Act regulates mammography screening facilities, providers, and equipment.
  • U.S. Department of Defense is mandated to fund the Breast Cancer Research Program.
  • The first Joint Meeting of the Japanese Cancer Association and AACR is held.


  • The Prostate Cancer Foundation is founded.
  • Inaugural AACR-Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award is presented to Benjamin G. Neel.
    The award is intended to encourage and support tenure-eligible junior faculty by providing a one-year grant for expenses related to a research project.


  • AACR membership passes 10,000.
  • Carcinomas originate from normal stem cells that become cancer stem cells.
    Investigations showed that a determined stem cell required for normal tissue renewal is the most likely cell of origin of carcinomas. (186)


  • Microarray technology is developed for molecular profiling.
    A chip that can assay the expression of thousands of genes from one sample rapidly expands the generation of data on molecular targets and diagnostics and drives the need for computational analysis methods. This hardware and software can be applied to gene expression, measuring genetic variation at single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and gene copy number and examining alternative splicing to measure biomarkers for individual cancers, which ultimately can lead to personalized therapies. (187)
  • Serial Analysis of Gene Expression (SAGE) technology is described as another method to analyze gene expression profiles.
    SAGE was described in the same year as microarray technology and provides another method for gene expression analysis. Short nucleotide sequence tags (~9-14 bps) are designed to a unique portion of a transcript and are sufficient to identify this transcript with specificity from the sample mRNA pool. Sequence tags are linked together (concatemers), cloned, and sequenced. The number of times a particular tag is observed quantifies the expression level of that transcript in the original mRNA sample. For example, conducting SAGE on mRNA derived from tumor and normal adjacent tissue can evaluate differential gene expression, if any, in the transcript the sequence tags are designed to identify. (188)
  • Computer-guided technology improves delivery of radiation therapy.
    Computerized systems improve the accuracy of radiation therapy with better focusing on the tumor, reducing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. (189)


  • First demonstration that blocking CTLA-4 could enhance antitumor immunity and lead to tumor elimination.
    Antibodies preventing the immune checkpoint protein CTLA-4 from putting the brakes on T-cell activation were shown to cause tumor elimination in mice. This proof-of-principle preclinical study led directly to the first of a groundbreaking class of cancer immunotherapeutics called immune checkpoint inhibitors. (190)
  • AACR in partnership with ASCO launches “Methods in Clinical Cancer Research: A Workshop,” held in Park City, Utah.
  • Inaugural AACR-Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research is presented to Samuel A. Wells, Jr.
  • Inaugural AACR-DeWitt S. Goodman Memorial Lecture is delivered by David J. Mangelsdorf.
    The lectureship is awarded for significant contributions to the field of nutrition and cancer and cancer prevention.


  • AACR holds its first Special Conference on “DNA Methylation, Imprinting, and the Epigenetics of Cancer.”
  • Rituximab (Rituxan) approved by FDA for the treatment of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma resistant to other treatments.
    Rituximab was the first monoclonal antibody FDA approved for the treatment of cancer. Rituximab, in combination with CHOP chemotherapy (RCHOP), is now standard of care in the treatment of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and many other B-cell lymphomas. (191)


  • Use of a monoclonal antibody (trastuzumab, Herceptin) significantly improves survival in advanced Her-2/neu breast cancer.
    Patients with Her-2/neu-positive metastatic breast cancer who were treated with chemotherapy plus trastuzumab (Herceptin) lived longer and their tumors showed a greater decrease in size compared with those in patients who received chemotherapy alone. (192,193)
  • Selective estrogen receptor modulators prevent breast cancer in high-risk women.
    A study showed reduction of breast cancer incidence by 44% in women at high risk for developing breast cancer who were treated with selective estrogen receptor modulators. This led to FDA approval of tamoxifen for prevention of breast cancer in women at high risk of developing the disease. (194)
  • PTEN is a lipid phosphatase.
    This observation focused attention on the PI3K pathway in cancer development, which is currently an important area of drug development. (195,196)
  • Inaugural AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lecture is delivered by Frances M. Visco.
    The lecture is intended to give recognition to an outstanding female or male scientist who has made meritorious contributions to the field of cancer research and who has, through leadership or by example, furthered the advancement of women in science.
  • One-quarter million people take part in “THE MARCH: Coming Together to Conquer Cancer,” a rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC, in support of increased cancer research funding.
    THE MARCH Research Task Force Report was published in Cancer Research. (197)
  • Inaugural Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research is presented to Anthony J. Pawson.
  • RNA Interference (RNAi) knockdown is demonstrated.
    RNAi provides a method to switch off the actions of genes and can be performed in a high-throughput manner, unlike the creation of knockout mice, which is very time consuming. Researchers are using RNAi to identify genes that might be involved in cancer by switching them off and examining the consequences. It is hoped that therapies might one day be enhanced through RNAi, for example, by using RNAi to switch off genes involved in drug resistance to make chemotherapy more effective. (198)
  • Master Settlement Agreement forces tobacco companies to pay $246 billion to U.S. states over the next 25 years as restitution for violating antitrust and consumer protection laws.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scanner is approved for functional imaging.
    PET uses an injected dye to view tissues that are highly metabolically active. PET can identify tumors that are fast growing and active. It is more sensitive at detecting small tumors and metastatic tumors than computed tomography (CT) or MRI and so may aid in early diagnosis. (199-201)
  • Human embryonic stem cells are grown for the first time.
    Embryonic stem cells have the capacity to become any cell type. Various possible applications have been suggested for how stem cells might be used to cure cancer, from generating host-identical replacement cells for tissues that have been surgically removed or destroyed by radiation therapy to generating immune cells that recognize tumors and can enhance the body’s own defense system to kill cancers. (202,203)
  • U.S. Congress enacts a plan to double the 1998 NIH budget by 2003.


  • Cancer-associated fibroblasts are found to promote tumorigenesis.
    This study showed that CAFs can drive transformation of initiated epithelial cells. Research on CAFs has helped highlight that cancer is not a cell-autonomous illness and that the tumor microenvironment plays an important role in driving tumorigenesis. (204)
  • AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics is launched.
    This conference, which alternates between locations in the U.S. and Europe each year, has become the most important drug development meeting in the world and an important collaboration among the organizing bodies.
  • AACR Molecular Epidemiology Working Group is formed.
    This first AACR Working Group (later renamed the Population Sciences Working Group) brings multiple disciplines together to foster advances in molecular epidemiology. Its success has motivated the formation of other Working Groups, all of which contribute in major ways to AACR programs, including the Annual Meeting.
  • Pancreas Cancer Think Tank is held by AACR.


  • Douglas Hanahan and Robert A. Weinberg publish their seminal review, “The Hallmarks of Cancer.”
    The authors coalesced a framework around which tumorigenesis could be understood as the result of a finite number of underlying principles and acquired capabilities “. . . shared by most and perhaps all types of human cancer.” The goal of articulating these principles was to help cancer researchers more clearly understand and discuss the complexities of neoplastic disease. (205)
  • Massively parallel signature sequencing method is published.
    This method launched the development of a variety of “next-generation” sequencing platforms. (206,207)
  • Da Vinci robotic surgical system is the first robotic surgery system approved by the FDA for general laparoscopic surgery.
    The da Vinci robotic surgical system is less invasive than previous surgical techniques and is used to treat a number of cancers. (208)
  • Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR) is established by the AACR to meet the professional needs and advance the careers of minority scientists.
    The MICR Council acts as an advisory body to the AACR leadership on issues of concern to minority investigators and is also responsible for organizing the activities of MICR through its committees.
  • Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act passes to provide treatment for low-income women diagnosed with cancer.


  • NCI establishes the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities to help reduce the disproportionate impact of cancer on underserved populations.
  • First commercial PET/CT scanner is developed.
    The first prototype began clinical evaluation at the University of Pittsburgh in 1998. The results from over 300 cancer patients were published in peer-reviewed journals two years later. The impressive results of high-resolution structural, anatomic data coupled with functional data created a market for commercial design. The first commercial PET/CT scanner, Discovery LS, was announced in 2001. (209,210)
  • FDA approves CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System.
    This noninvasive alternative to surgery allowed for more accurate targeting of radiation therapy to treat cancers, tumors, and other lesions. (208)
  • Children’s Oncology Group is formed.
    Formed from four of NCI’s pediatric cooperative groups (the National Wilms Tumor Study Group, the Children’s Cancer Group, the Pediatric Oncology Group, and the Intergroup Rhabdomyosarcoma Study Group), the Children’s Oncology Group directs most of the pediatric cancer clinical trials in the U.S. Fifty to 60 percent of eligible children participate in clinical trials.
  • National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is established.
    The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a research and development initiative of the U.S. government and comprises the individual and cooperative nanotechnology-related activities of 20 departments and federal agencies. NNI’s common goals are to: 1) advance a world-class nanotechnology research and development program; 2) foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit; 3) develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce, and a dynamic infrastructure and toolset to advance nanotechnology; and 4) support responsible development of nanotechnology. (211)
  • Guidelines and recommendations for the implementation of intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) are published by the NCI Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy Collaborative Working Group.
    IMRT represents one of the most important developments in radiation therapy. It enables the delivery of high-dose radiation targeted to the tumor and minimal dose to the surrounding healthy tissue. IMRT is now how radiation therapy is most commonly delivered. (212)
  • Two ligands for inhibitory PD-1 are identified.
    Engagement of PD-1 by either of its two newly discovered ligands B7-H1 and B7-DC (PD-L1 and PD-L2, respectively) drastically inhibits T-cell receptor-mediated proliferation and cytokine production. Researchers believe this is a way to regulate T-cell responses as dysregulation of this pathway can lead to autoimmunity. This pathway will become a major target for cancer immunotherapy, as blocking PD-1 from binding either of its two immunomodulatory ligands can shift the balance toward heightened T-cell cytotoxicity activity, directing it toward the cancer. (213-216)
  • Imatinib, the first FDA-approved small-molecule kinase inhibitor, is effective in treating chronic myelogenous leukemia.
    Earlier work established that the Bcr-Abl fusion protein, a result of the Philadelphia chromosome translocation event, was characteristic and causative of chronic myelogenous leukemia. The kinase inhibitor imatinib (Gleevec) selectively shuts down Bcr-Abl signaling in leukemic cells resulting in remission. (217)
  • Draft sequence of the human genome is published.
    A public, free-access, complete human genomic sequence allows researchers to perform many experiments, including but not limited to studies of comparison with other organisms, predictions of gene functions, identification of new genes involved in cancer, and design of new diagnostics and therapeutics. The race to sequence the genome advanced technologies for sequencing and analysis, and it is believed that the $1000 genome sequence may be possible within a few years. This opens up the possibility that patients might sequence and store their full genetic information and that it might be used for personalized medicine, such as determining customized drug treatments and preventive measures. (218,219)
  • AACR introduces two new categories of membership: Affiliate Membership, for health professionals working in support of cancer and biomedical research, and Student Membership, for high school and undergraduate students.


  • I-SPY Trials are launched.
    The I-SPY TRIALs are an adaptive approach to clinical trial design to accelerate the processes of identifying patients who would benefit from new drugs and to bring effective drugs to the market. The I-SPY Trials Program consists of three integrated and linked phases: phase I (I-SPY 1), phase II (I-SPY 2), and phase III (I-SPY 3). The I-SPY 1 study integrated patients’ clinical, imaging, and genomic data to evaluate whether response to therapy could predict recurrence-free survival. Additionally, the trial data were used to inform and enable decisions at earlier time points for the I-SPY 2 Trial. The adaptive design of the I-SPY 2 Trials allowed investigators to learn from study data as they were collected and adapt treatments to those that would be more likely to benefit the patient. Rather than waiting until the end of the trial, outcomes were assessed continually and data used to inform the ongoing trial. I-SPY 3 is designed to accelerate the phase III testing of agents.
  • BRAF gene is mutated in human cancers.
    Somatic missense mutations in BRAF, a gene encoding a kinase in the RAS–RAF–MEK–ERK–MAP pathway, are described as occurring in a variety of human cancers. Mutated BRAF proteins have elevated kinase activity capable of transforming NIH3T3 cells. BRAF mutations occur most frequently in malignant melanoma. This observation provided a new therapeutic target. (220)
  • NSG mouse is an excellent model for engraftment of human tumors.
    The NOD/SCID/gamma-deficient mouse model is functionally incompetent, lacking functional T, B, and natural killer (NK) cells, and is therefore a model recipient for xenotransplantation. This mouse model can be used to engraft human cancer cells so that researchers can study and understand features of patients’ tumors, such as progression and metastasis. (221)
  • First clinical trials of checkpoint inhibitor antibody are held.
    Immunosuppressive CTLA-4 on T cells acts as a brake on the immune system. A specific monoclonal antibody that recognizes CTLA-4 blocks it and unleashes the potential of the immune system to destroy cancerous cells, opening the door to a new approach to cancer immunotherapy. (190,222,223)
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies secondhand smoke as carcinogenic to humans.
    IARC, in its monograph, Tobacco Smoke and Involuntary Smoking, concluded that there is sufficient evidence that secondhand smoke, also referred to as involuntary or passive smoking, causes lung cancer in humans. (224)
  • AACR holds first multidisciplinary Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research conference.
  • Inaugural IARC-Prevent Cancer Foundation Award for Excellence in Cancer Prevention research is presented to Michael B. Sporn.
    In 2013, the award was renamed the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Prevention Research.
  • The Inaugural Kirk A. Landon-AACR Prize for Basic Cancer Research is presented to Robert N. Eisenman.
  • The Inaugural Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research is presented to Elwood V. Jensen and V. Craig Jordan.
  • FDA approves ibritumomab tiuxetan for the treatment of patients with relapsed or refractory, low-grade or follicular B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
    Ibritumomab tiuxetan was the first radioimmunotherapy drug approved by FDA to treat cancer. It was approved for the treatment of patients with relapsed or refractory, low-grade or follicular B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), including patients with rituximab refractory follicular NHL. (225)


  • Obesity is associated with increased cancer death rates.
    In a prospective study of more than 900,000 U.S. adults, the death rates from all cancers combined in men and women with a body-mass index (BMI) of 40 or above were 52% and 62% higher than in men and women with normal BMI, respectively. The study estimated that 90,000 cancer-related deaths could be prevented each year in the U.S. if men and women could maintain normal weight. (226)
  • FDA approves the first EGFR inhibitor.
    Gefitinib was approved by FDA in 2003 for patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) after failure of both docetaxel- and platinum-based treatments. The surrogate endpoint for clinical efficacy was tumor response rate. Erlotinib, another EGFR inhibitor, was approved by FDA in 2004 for this same cohort, but clinical efficacy was based on improved overall survival. Two follow-up clinical trials with gefitinib did not demonstrate survival benefit. This led to FDA relabeling of gefinitib in 2005 for cancer patients who, in the opinion of their treating physicians, are currently benefiting or have previously benefited from gefitinib treatment. Approval of gefinitib as a first-line therapy was granted in 2015 for patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumors express either of two specific EGFR mutations (exon 19 deletions or exon 21 L858R substitution gene mutations). Erlotinib received the same first-line therapy indication for the specific EGFR-mutant cohort in 2013. (227)
  • Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies publishes report on disparities in health care.
    In 1999 Congress requested an IOM study on the extent of disparities in health services received by U.S. racial and ethnic minorities. The report from that study, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, found that U.S. racial and ethnic minorities received lower quality health services and were less likely to receive routine medical procedures. The report recommended several policies to decrease these disparities, including raising awareness about health disparities, developing guidelines for providers, and increasing the numbers of minority health care providers and interpreters in clinics and hospitals. (228)
  • Loss of function of some tumor suppressor genes occurs through hypermethylation.
    Some genes that are frequently hypermethylated in cancer, but are not themselves mutated, can be important tumor suppressor genes. Tumor suppressor genes can be silenced through hypermethylation of their promoter regions, allowing cells to grow and reproduce uncontrollably. (229,230)
  • Database of target genes responsive to Myc is developed.
    The database serves as a warehouse for information about Myc-responsive genes. Genes are clustered based on their responsiveness to the transcription factor Myc and paired with phylogenetic sequence comparisons to predict the target-binding sites of c-Myc. The database also provides information and references on alterations of MYC genes in human cancers and links to a c-Myc protein-protein interaction database. (231)
  • Large-scale mutation analysis of tyrosine kinome identifies mutations in genes, including NTRK and PIK3CA, implicated in cancer.
    The large-scale sequencing-based approach helped identify previously unknown gene mutations providing potential targets for drug development. Therapies targeting NTRK fusions and PIK3CA mutations were developed subsequently. (232-234)
  • AACR membership passes 20,000.
  • Ubiquitin-proteasome pathway inhibitor bortezomib (Velcade) receives accelerated approval.
    Bortezomib (Velcade), a member of a new class of anticancer drugs that target the ubiquitin protein degradation system, was shown to be active in patients with relapsed multiple myeloma that was refractory to conventional chemotherapy. (235)
  • Inaugural AACR Distinguished Lecture is delivered by James E. Darnell, Jr.
    In 2013, the lectureship was renamed the AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lecture.


  • FDA approves bevacizumab (Avastin) for treating advanced colon cancer.
    This the first FDA-approved antiangiogenic therapeutic; there are now 11. Building on earlier work identifying the need of new blood vessel networks to feed tumor growth, therapies were designed to antagonize VEGF, a key molecule in angiogenesis. The addition of bevacizumab to conventional fluorouracil-based combination chemotherapy resulted in improved survival in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. (236)
  • Radiotherapy is shown to induce antitumor immunity.
    The ability of ionizing radiation to cause tumor regression outside the field of radiation was shown in this preclinical study to be a result of immune-cell activation and action at distant sites. (237)
  • 5-Azacitidine (Vidaza), the first-in-class drug targeting an epigenetic mechanism, is approved.
    5-Azacitidine targets an epigenetic mechanism in cancer. It is a hypomethylating agent and a chemical analogue of the nucleoside cytosine. It works by inhibiting DNA methyltransferase, leading to DNA hypomethylation. FDA approved this drug for the treatment of several subtypes of myelodysplastic syndrome. (238)
  • According to the American Cancer Society, the absolute number of cancer deaths in the United States declines for the second year in a row, confirming a trend in cancer-related mortality.
  • Vaccines against HPV are developed to prevent cervical cancer.
    Vaccination against the most common oncogenic HPV types, HPV 16 and HPV 18, could prevent up to 70% of cervical cancer cases worldwide. (239,240)
  • Inaugural AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research is presented to Emil Frei III.


  • First haplotype map of the human genome is published.
    A large consortium published a database of one million SNPs in 269 DNA samples from four population groups. This resource allowed for the beginning of whole-genome association studies and the identification of susceptibility variants. (241)
  • NCI Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch of the Cancer Diagnosis Program is established.
  • EGFR T790M mutation is reported.
    Lung adenocarcinomas that contain a primary drugsensitive mutation in EGFR initially respond to the tyrosine kinase inhibitors gefitinib and erlotinib, but eventually progress by previously unknown mechanisms of acquired resistance. This study found that the tumors that progress due to acquired resistance contain, in addition to the primary mutation, a secondary mutation in exon 20, leading to the substitution of methionine for threonine at position 790 (T790M) in the kinase domain. This information provided a basis for the development of second-generation kinase inhibitors to treat NSCLC. (242)
  • Proffered abstracts at the AACR Annual Meeting set a new record of over 6,000.
  • Small noncoding RNAs have a role in oncogenesis.
    Traditionally, much of the focus of genomic research had concentrated on genes that code for proteins. Several studies showing that small, noncoding RNAs may play a role in the development of cancer, including one published in Cancer Research, challenged the long-standing belief that proteins were the principal functional products of the genome. (243-245)
  • AACR Workshop on the Human Epigenome is held.


  • The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) is established to map cancer genes.
    TCGA, a collaboration between the NCI and the National Human Genome Research Institute, seeks to identify the changes in each cancer’s complete set of DNA in the hope of understanding how such changes drive the disease.
  • NCI TAILORx Breast Cancer Trial is launched.
    TAILORx [Trial Assigning IndividuaLized Options for Treatment (Rx)] examined whether genes that are frequently associated with risk of recurrence for women with early-stage breast cancer can be used to assign patients to the most appropriate and effective treatment.
  • U.S. Surgeon General’s report on secondhand smoke is released.
    This Surgeon General’s report updated the evidence of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. The previous comprehensive review of this evidence by the Department of Health and Human Services was released in 1986. (246)
  • New method of adoptive T-cell transfer is introduced.
    Genetic engineering of T cells to express T-cell receptor bypasses the need to expand tumor-specific T cells. Some cancer patients have few to no tumor-reactive T cells; genetically modifying normal circulating peripheral T cells overcomes this limitation to standard adoptive transfer. (247)
  • Cancer is described as an evolutionary and ecological process, providing insight into its clonal heterogeneity.
    In 1976, a landmark paper was published on the evolutionary theory of cancer. Advances in biology and sequencing facilitated the validation of this theory. A 2006 paper decribed each neoplasm as a complex, Darwinian, adaptive system made up of a “mosaic of mutant cells” that “compete for space and resources, evade predation by the immune system and can even cooperate to disperse and colonize new organs.” These papers provided insight into the clonal heterogeneity of tumors and described how resistant clones arise. (248,249)
  • Protein-coding genes of breast and colon cancers are sequenced.
    Genomic sequencing and analysis of the 13,023 genes in 11 breast and 11 colorectal cancers revealed that only a subset of the accumulated mutations in a tumor contribute to the neoplastic process. The comprehensive data and analysis helped researchers understand the genetic landscape of breast and colon cancers, while also providing clues for new targets for diagnostic and therapeutic intervention. (250)
  • AACR publishes CR (relaunched in 2011 as Cancer Today), the association’s first magazine specifically for cancer patients, survivors, and their family members and friends.
  • Inaugural AACR-Minorities in Cancer Research Jane Cooke Wright Memorial Lecture is delivered by Olufunmilayo I. Olopade.
  • AACR Council of Scientific Advisors is formed.


  • The term “myeloid-derived suppressor cells” is coined. Myeloid-derived suppressor cells are a heterogeneous mixture of immunosuppressive cells of myeloid origin. These cells accumulate in several pathologic conditions, including many types of cancer, where they suppress antitumor immune responses, promote tumor immune evasion, and associate with poor prognosis. (251)
  • ALK rearrangements in NSCLC are identified. Researchers identified a small inversion on chromosome 2p in NSCLC cells that results in a fusion gene of EML4 and ALK. Expression of the mutant EML4-ALK fusion transcript transformed foci in normal cells and resulted in subcutaneous tumors in nude mice. In this original study, the EML4-ALK mutant fusion transcript was identified in ~6.7% of the human NSCLC patients tested. Later studies identified additional ALK fusion gene variants that encode oncogenic kinases in NSCLC patients. In fact, these mutations are most often found in NSCLC patients who are younger, female, light/never smokers, or do not harbor EGFR or KRAS mutations. This finding in a subset of NSCLC patients provided a new therapeutic target based on cancer genotype and led to landmarks in both targeted therapy and precision medicine. (252-254)
  • AACR celebrates 100 years of fostering research in cancer and related biomedical science; disseminating new research findings among scientists and others dedicated to the conquest of cancer; promoting science education and training; and advancing the understanding of cancer etiology, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment throughout the world.
  • Inaugural AACR Team Science Award is presented to the University of Michigan-Brigham and Women’s Hospital Team.
  • Inaugural AACR Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research is presented to AACR CEO Margaret Foti.
    In 2008, the award was renamed the Margaret Foti Award.
  • Inaugural AACR-Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lecture is delivered by Webster K. Cavenee.
  • AACR holds its first Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved.
  • Inaugural AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research is presented to Samuel J. Danishefsky.
  • AACR-FDA-NCI Cancer Biomarkers Collaborative is convened.
    This body of more than 100 cancer researchers and advocates produced a definitive publication in the form of a consensus report that was published in Clinical Cancer Research. (255)
  • AACR Translational Cancer Medicine Think Tank is held.


  • Tumor burden is tracked using circulating DNA alterations in the blood.
    Tumor cells can be found in the circulation of those with advanced cancers, and tumor-derived mutant DNA can be detected in the cell-free fraction of the blood. However, previous studies were unable to use sufficiently sensitive techniques to detect low levels of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). Modifications to the BEAMing technique (beads, emulsion, amplification, and magnetics) made it possible to detect low levels of circulating mutant DNA fragments, precisely measure the level of ctDNA, and track tumor burden in patients. This indicated that ctDNA could serve as a potential biomarker to noninvasively monitor many types of cancer and help inform clinical decision-making. (256)
  • Whole-genome sequence of a human cancer is reported.
    Treatment of acute myeloid leukemia has been particularly challenging since most of the genetic events that initiate the disease are unknown. Whole-genome sequencing of a typical acute myeloid leukemia genome and its matched normal counterpart found 10 genes with acquired mutations, eight of which were new mutations. This study established whole-genome sequencing as a method for discovering mutations that may respond to targeted therapies. (257)
  • Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, holds its first fundraising telecast.
    The AACR is the Scientific Partner of SU2C.
  • AACR launches its collaboration with the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at UT Health Science Center San Antonio and Baylor College of Medicine to support the CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
    At this symposium, the Inaugural AACR Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research was presented to Douglas Easton, and the Inaugural AACR Distinguished Lecture in Breast Cancer Research was given by Joan Massagué.
  • AACR-NCI Think Tank, “Charting the Future of Cancer Prevention,” is held.
  • Cancer cells secrete exosomes that deliver genetic information and proteins to cells in the tumor environment.
    This study showed that glioblastoma-derived exosomes can serve as a mechanism by which tumors can alter the microenvironment and make it more permissive to tumor growth and invasion. (258)


  • Congress passes the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the Stimulus.
    The provisions of the Act support initiatives by the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences related to cancer prevention, screening, treatment, and genomics.
  • Congress passes the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
    The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act) was signed into law on June 22, 2009, giving the FDA authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products. (259)
  • AACR commemorates its 100th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado.
  • AACR membership passes 30,000.


  • Childhood cancer mortality rates decline by more than 50%.
    Improved drugs, treatment strategies, and investments in clinical trials are some of the possible factors resulting in this decrease in childhood cancer mortality. (260)
  • Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is created.
    As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, PCORI was established as a nonprofit organization to put a focus on patient priorities for research. The goal of PCORI is to improve patient outcomes by using the best clinical technology, techniques, and medications, as determined by the best available research evidence. (261)
  • Congress passes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
    The ACA was designed to expand coverage, control health care costs, and improve the health care delivery system, including improving insurance coverage for preventative care, screening services, and tobacco cessation treatments. (262)
  • Prostate cancer vaccine composed of the patient’s activated immune cells shows promise in clinical trial.
    The vaccine, sipuleucel-T, composed of the patient’s dendritic cells, stimulates T cells to respond to prostatic acid phosphatase, an antigen found on most prostate cancer cells. (263)
  • Dissemination of cells from primary tumors occurs early, often before primary tumor diagnosis.
    Some patients with localized cancer subsequently develop metastatic disease years after complete primary tumor resection. Tumor cells were found to disseminate throughout the body early during tumor development, even before the primary tumor became clinically detectable, and late metastases arose from these early disseminated cells. (264)
  • Inaugural AACR Distinguished Lecture on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities is given by Charles M. Perou at the AACR Cancer Disparities meeting (right).
  • AACR forms the Cancer Immunology and the Behavioral Science in Cancer Research Working Groups.
  • AACR launches Task Forces on the Cancer Epigenome, Survivorship Research, and Membership Development.
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