Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Celebrates 75th Anniversary


Press Release

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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is launching a year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary to highlight its history and progress in cancer care and transformative cancer research.

Laurie H. Glimcher, MD

Laurie H. Glimcher, MD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is launching a year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary to highlight its history and progress in cancer care and transformative cancer research. In marking the notable anniversary, Dana-Farber seeks to recognize the Institute’s many scientific discoveries, advancements in cancer care for patients, and its extraordinary contributions to eradicating cancer in both children and adults.

“From the first remissions with chemotherapy in 1947 to the most recent new immunotherapies, Dana-Farber has helped push progress against cancer for patients, everywhere,” said Dana-Farber President and CEO, Laurie H. Glimcher, MD. “We celebrate the rich history this anniversary represents, even as we rededicate ourselves to relieve the burden of cancer in the years ahead.”

Dana-Farber will celebrate the milestone anniversary throughout 2022 with signage around the Longwood Medical Area, a dedicated web hub, social media content featuring historical moments in Dana-Farber history, a workforce celebration, and other events to be announced throughout the year. Other historical initiatives, include a Voices of History video project to capture thoughts and memories from key figures from Dana-Farber’s history.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu will also issue a City of Boston Proclamation today, announcing March 30, 2022 as Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Day.

“Our work over many decades has been marked by an incredible community of scientists, clinicians, nurses, staff and volunteers, all working together with our patients and families for the best possible outcome today and tomorrow,” said Josh Bekenstein, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “We are grateful for their efforts and dedication to the mission we all share.”

In 1947, Sidney Farber, MD, founded the Children's Cancer Research Foundation, dedicated to providing compassionate, state-of-the-art treatment to children with cancer while developing the cancer preventatives, treatments, and cures of the future.

The foundation officially expanded its programs to include patients of all ages in 1969, and in 1974 became known as the Sidney Farber Cancer Center in honor of its founder. The long-term support of the Charles A. Dana Foundation was acknowledged by incorporating the Institute under its present name in 1983.

Throughout its history, Dana-Farber researchers and physicians have contributed numerous scientific breakthrough in both the understanding of cancer biology and the treatment of the disease across all types of cancer including:

  • 1954: Farber and his colleagues achieve the first remissions of Wilms' tumor, a common form of childhood cancer, and boost cure rates from 40 percent to 85 percent.
  • 1974: Drs. Emil Frei III and Stephen Sallan start the first in an ongoing series of clinical trials for children diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). These trials dramatically improve treatment and play a key role in building toward today's cure rates of 85 to 90 percent.
  • 1996: Institute researchers dramatically advance the understanding of how HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, replicates and infects healthy cells. Science magazine heralds this discovery as its "Breakthrough of the Year".
  • 1998: A drug called imatinib (Gleevec), the early work for which was done at Dana-Farber, achieves striking success in many patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia.
  • 2001: Dana-Farber researchers discover that many cancer cells carry a surface protein called PD-L1, which staves off an attack by immune system T cells. The discovery lays the foundation for immunotherapy drugs.

Over the last decade, Dana-Farber researchers have helped to usher in a new era in personalized cancer treatment using precision medicine, targeted treatments and becoming a world leader in leveraging the human immune system to fight cancer. Advancements have included:

  • Nivolumab (Optivo) becomes the first drug targeting the PD-L1 protein on cancer cells to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug, part of a revolution in cancer immunotherapy, derives from research by Dana-Farber scientists.
  • Officials launch Profile, a research program that enables all adult patients treated at the Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center to have their tumor tissue scanned for genetic mutations known or suspected of being linked to cancer.
  • A personal cancer treatment vaccine that targets distinctive "neoantigens" on tumor cells can stimulate a potent, safe, and precisely targeted anti-tumor response in patients with melanoma, scientists at Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute report.
  • Following a clinical trial led by Dana-Farber investigators, the U.S Food and Drug Administration grants its first approval for CAR T-cell therapy for adults with multiple myeloma.
  • Dana-Farber scientist William Kaelin Jr., MD, is named a co-recipient of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research into the mechanism by which cells sense and adjust to varying levels of oxygen.
  • Dana-Farber researchers have contributed to the development of 35 of 75 cancer drugs recently approved by the FDA for use in cancer patients.
  • The Institute is internationally renowned for its equal commitment to cutting edge research and provision of excellent patient care.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, a federally designated Center for AIDS Research, and a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, a federally designated comprehensive cancer center. Dana-Farber also maintains affiliations with several schools of nursing in the Boston area.

Dana-Farber is supported by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the generous support of numerous foundations and individuals who contribute to the Institute's individual research and clinic programs or to the Jimmy Fund, the principal charity of the Institute, named for one of its child patients.

For more information on Dana-Farber’s 75th anniversary, visit www.dana-farber.org/75

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