National Cancer Institute
6116 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892
At the forefront of the race against cancer is the National Cancer Institute (NCI), an independent cancer research institute established by the United States government. NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health, a group of 11 health agencies run as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NCI is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland – just 10 miles from heart of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. – and the institute has a second research location at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Additionally, NCI funds the work of numerous cancer researchers at hospitals, foundations and private companies throughout the United States and abroad.
The National Cancer Institute was established by an act of Congress on August 6, 1937. The act was supported by every member of the Senate – a highly unusual occurrence, and one that demonstrated the nation’s growing concern about cancer. The NCI was given the authority to conduct research, offer fellowships to promising young scientists, and to give grant money to scientists outside the federal government in support of their research.
In 1944, a second law was passed – the Public Health Service Act – which made the NCI part of the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research center. In 1971, then-President Richard Nixon signed into law the National Cancer Act of 1971, which broadened the scope and responsibilities of the NCI “in order to more effectively to carry out the national effort against cancer.”
Because the NCI is run by the federal government, its leaders are appointed by the president of the United States. In May 2010, Dr. Harold Varmus, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, was appointed to the position by President Barack Obama. He is the agency’s 14th director.
Mesothelioma Treatment at the National Cancer Institute
The National Cancer Institute is not a hospital; instead, the institute focuses on research, both conducting its own and supporting the work of other organizations. The NCI also coordinates the U.S. National Cancer Program and helps inform the public about cancer prevention and treatment. Specifically, the institute provides grants to researchers at universities, hospitals, research foundations, and businesses; conducts research in its own laboratories and clinics; supports a national network of cancer centers; and acts as a kind of cancer “think tank,” collecting and disseminating the most cutting-edge information about the disease.
The NCI conducts research on hundreds of types of cancer, including mesothelioma, a disease in which cancer cells grow in the lining of a person’s chest or abdomen. The disease is associated with exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in construction and manufacturing for much of the 20th century. Diagnosing mesothelioma can be difficult, as the disease’s symptoms – shortness of breath, pain in the chest or abdomen, weight loss, and fluid in the lungs – are often similar to other diseases. Often times, several tests must be conducted to reach a clear diagnosis, such as physical exams, X-rays, biopsies, and bronchoscopies.
People diagnosed with mesothelioma have several different treatment options. Currently there are three standard types of treatment: surgery, which may remove the whole lung or just part of the affected lining; radiation, a therapy that uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells; and chemotherapy, a drug treatment that prevents cancer cells from growing. Many patients will undergo all three treatments. Some patients, however, may decide to take a different course of action and take part in a clinical trial, in which they are given new drugs or treatment methods so doctors can better understand how they work. Patients may enter clinical trials before, during, or after they begin their cancer treatment.
National Cancer Institute – Mission Statement
National Cancer Institute – Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment
National Institutes of Health – A Short History