The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick; formerly The Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center) began operations under the authority of the NCI in June 1972. Approximately 70 acres and 67 buildings formerly owned by the U.S. Army were transferred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH). This afforded the NCI the opportunity to establish highly flexible laboratory operations in Government space relatively close to the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Since its establishment in 1972, NCI-Frederick has become an internationally recognized center of scientific excellence. This has been the result of the coordinated efforts of Government scientists and NCI-Frederick contractors working to achieve rapid progress in the race to cure cancer and AIDS.

In 1975, the National Science Foundation notified DHHS that NCI-Frederick met the criteria for and was designated as a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC). In 1976, all buildings and acreage utilized by NCI-Frederick were formally transferred from the Department of Defense/Department of the Army to DHHS/NIH.

During the first decade, a single contractor operated this Government-owned facility. Starting in late September 1982, however, the NCI divided the single contract into five functional components: Basic Research, Operations and Technical Support, Animal Production, Computer Services, and Scientific Library Services, which support all Government and contract activities located at Frederick. Required work includes extensive laboratory renovations, developmental and applied cancer research, the furnishing of research resources, scientific support services, including a strong safety program, computer and scientific library services, laboratory animal production, and the maintenance and upkeep of 67 buildings and structures situated on approximately 70 acres.