Though it lasted just 15 years, Frederick’s first clinical oncology program answered multiple fundamental questions in the fledgling field of immunotherapy and primed the local medical community to become the oncology research hub it is today. The Biological Response Modifiers Program (BRMP) received formal recognition from the Department of Health and Human Services 40 years ago today, on April 27.
Unsurprisingly, the new Basic Research Program at the Frederick Cancer Research Center took some time to gain momentum despite the preparations that had been made. Margaret Kripke, Ph.D., head of the program’s Immunobiology of Physical and Chemical Carcinogenesis Section at the time, recalls that her first year was dedicated to setting up her new laboratory, hiring staff, moving around, and finishing projects she had started in her former laboratory at University of Utah.
By early 1974, the concept of the first investigator-initiated research program in Frederick was firmly approved. The idea had passed through the necessary channels, and the National Cancer Institute and the Frederick Cancer Research Center set about making it a reality.
As the winter of 1973 turned to spring, the Frederick Cancer Research Center (FCRC), the forerunner to the Frederick National Laboratory and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at Frederick that exist today, neared the one-year mark since its opening. The more than 250 employees had made sound progress, given the challenges of converting the old Fort Detrick biowarfare facilities into a fledgling cancer center. Their efforts had drawn some attention, too.
The old adage that says two heads are better than one certainly seems true for Mitchell Ho, Ph.D., a senior investigator in the Center for Cancer Research, and Xiaolin Wu, Ph.D., a principal scientist in the Genomics Technology Laboratory, a CCR Core at the Frederick National Laboratory. Together, these two scientists are using next-generation genomics technology to develop, in an animal model, a chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy that might help patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer.
On October 18, 1971, President Richard Nixon emerged from the U.S. Army Post Headquarters at Fort Detrick into the sunlight of one of Frederick’s signature autumn mornings. Nearby, a crowd of dignitaries, Army officers, and journalists from local and national news outlets had gathered to hear his remarks about the former biowarfare research facility. He greeted them, paused to make a good-natured joke about the Baltimore Orioles, then delivered an announcement that altered the course of biomedical research in the United States.
Ira Pastan, Ph.D., says the FDA’s recent approval of moxetumomab pasudotox, a drug that originated in his lab, wasn’t like “hitting a home run with the bases loaded, all of it happening in 20 seconds.”
In fact, it was more like 20 years.
During an address to the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, NCI Director Norman “Ned” Sharpless, M.D., announced that the National Cancer Institute is committing $10 million to support NCI-run clinical trials this year. The funds, which will be given in addition to the normal budget, are dedicated to trials conducted within the NCI Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) and the NCI Community Oncology Research Program.
Last week, Director Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless spoke with Paul Goldberg, editor and publisher of The Cancer Letter, regarding his six-month “listening tour,” a project he embarked on after being named the new director, as well as his vision for the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
The Scientific Library is expanding its current training opportunities by offering webinars, allowing employees to take advantage of trainings from the comfort of their own offices. Due to the nature of their work, some employees find it inconvenient to attend in-person training classes; others simply prefer to use their own computers. The Scientific Library has been experimenting with webinar sessions since 2016 and expanded the service in 2017. Now, due to the popularity of webinars, it plans to offer even more webinar training sessions.