Submitted by: Alayna Avery, Communications Specialist, The Wistar Institute

On November 15, 2012, the Wistar Institute, an international leader in basic biomedical research, celebrated the 40th anniversary of its designation as a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center, highlighting four decades of progress in cancer research.

Of the approximate 1,500 cancer centers in the United States, fewer than 70 have earned the distinction of an NCI designation. NCI-designated Cancer Centers are known for their scientific excellence and their ability to employ a range of research approaches to investigate and fight cancer. To have earned—and to maintain—such a prestigious designation, Wistar must continually meet rigorous quality guidelines outlined by the NCI.

In 1972, the NCI named The Wistar Institute as the first of these distinguished institutions in Philadelphia. Of the city’s four NCI-designated Cancer Centers, Wistar is the only one focused entirely on basic research – the science of understanding what causes cancer, what makes it grow and spread, and ultimately how to treat and cure it.

“Forty years ago, we did not know what we did not know about cancer, and Wistar has played a vital part in furthering the scientific understanding of the biology that underlies this set of diseases,” said Dario Altieri, M.D., Director of The Wistar Institute Cancer Center and Robert and Penny Fox Distinguished Professor. “At its 40th anniversary, The Wistar Institute is uniquely positioned to fully realize the potential of science in developing new tools to detect and beat cancer.”

Wistar’s celebration culminated with a special event and roundtable discussion at WHYY, Inc. Led by WHYY Health and Behavioral Science Reporter Maiken Scott, panelists Altieri; Frank J. Rauscher, III, Ph.D., deputy director of basic research at Wistar; Chi Van Dang, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University Pennsylvania; and cancer survivor and Wistar supporter Eleanor Davis discussed 40 years of progress in cancer research and future directions for the field.

In the 40 years since its designation, The Wistar Institute Cancer Center has made significant progress in the fight against cancer. Among the many advances coming from Wistar’s labs: patenting a means of using monoclonal antibodies for developing cancer therapies; decoding the structure of telomerase, an enzyme which conserves the ends of chromosomes, a process with great implications for aging and cancer; and discovering ADAR, an enzyme responsible for “editing” RNA, which helped to open an entirely new facet of cell biology to science.

Today, Wistar researchers continue to work on the leading edge of the fight against cancer, searching for fundamental root causes of the disease, and for better ways to diagnose, treat – and one day cure – cancer.

The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit bi