An Original NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s first application for National Cancer Institute (NCI) support as a Comprehensive Cancer Center was awarded in 1973. It was designated by the National Cancer Advisory Board as one of the first six new Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States. A year later, Dr. Rusch succeeded in obtaining NCI support of $6 million for construction of a seven-story tower to be attached to the new Clinical Sciences Center (the new 530 bed University Hospital) then under construction on the University west campus, adjacent to the Veterans Hospital. The university contributed $2.3 million and another $1 million came from philanthropy to support the total cost of construction of the tower plus an adjacent animal facility. Construction finished on the new tower in January 1978 and provided over 70,000 assignable square feet for the UWCCC.
It is important to remember that there were two cancer centers on the same campus at this time: the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research and the Comprehensive Cancer Center. This structure was common at the time. The two centers, which had communicated and worked closely together through their formative periods, continued their tradition of collaboration in research and education. The new Department of Human Oncology included medical and radiation oncologists, cancer surgeons, statisticians and laboratory scientists. The increased space allowed for further collaboration between scientists of multiple disciplines.
The Division of Radiation Oncology was housed in the basement area of the new tower, and the second floor comprised the outpatient cancer clinics. The west campus Clinical Science Center opened at that time. Its space allowed the UWCCC to expand, integrate scattered activities, and promote close coordination between laboratory and clinical research. The old university hospital site, now called the Medical Sciences Center, continued to house some cancer center laboratories and the center used the space to expand biostatistics, epidemiology, and the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Operations Office, and to start the Cancer Information Service (CIS) – later to become an NCI-sponsored national patient support system.
Department Status and Structure
The university and Medical School granted departmental status to the Comprehensive Center in 1975, and Dr. Rusch became the first chair of Human Oncology and Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. G.T. Bryan, a medical oncologist, was appointed deputy director. Dr. Paul Carbone was recruited from the NCI in 1975 to head the Division of Clinical Oncology and when Dr. Rusch retired in the spring of 1978, Dr. Carbone was named the second Chairman of Human Oncology and the Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Carbone led the UWCCC for 19 years through an exceptional period of scientific and clinical growth while promoting further interdisciplinary science through collaborations across departments.
The Comprehensive Cancer Center attracted and helped recruit talented individuals to many other departments, significantly increasing the base of individuals committed to cancer research. Involvement in recruiting, helping with start-up packages, and awarding pilot project funds effectively extended the reach of the Center across the UW. As a matrix cancer center, the UWCCC has been free to extend its influence not only into other departments within the Medical School but also into other schools on campus.
In 1991, following two decades of strong leadership of the McArdle Laboratory, Dr. Pitot retired from the directorship, and Dr. Norman Drinkwater, a distinguished McArdle scientist and the Laboratory Associate Director, was appointed as the third Chair of Oncology and Director of the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research.
The UWCCC was the first major unit in the Medical School to raise funds locally in the community. Lay leaders, community events, and philanthropic donors greatly increased the visibility and resources of the cancer center. Average annual fund-raising contributions rose from $38,000 a year in 1983 to approximately $3-4 million per year, currently. These gifts and another NIH/NCI construction grant made possible two construction projects with a combined total of more than 12,000 assignable square feet of new office and laboratory space for the UWCCC. The new space was located in the adjacent CSC K6 tower and was completed in 1995 and 1996. This space is currently occupied by members of biostatistics, medical oncology, prostate cancer researchers and two shared services.
During the 1990s and 2000s, the UWCCC was instrumental in building a major biostatistics program, assisting the biostatistics program in the initiation of an informatics program that is heavily focused on cancer research, establishing the University of Wisconsin General Clinical Research Center, and encouraging and supporting the UW Women’s Health Initiative. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the UWCCC and its members played significant leadership roles in the establishing several major cancer resources:
- Wisconsin Oncology Network (WON, Dr. Bailey and Dr. Traynor)
- Health Innovations Program (HIP, Dr. M. Smith)
- Wisconsin Network for Health Research (WiNHR, Bailey)
- Master of Public Health program’s revitalization (Dr. Remington)
- Housing the new Human Proteomics Program shared resource initiative in the Clinical Science Center.
Merging UW’s Two Cancer Centers
In 1994, Dr. Carbone informed the Dean of the Medical School that he would like to consider retirement and relinquish his role as Director of the UWCCC. The Dean initiated internal and external reviews of the UWCCC, the Department of Human Oncology, and the McArdle Laboratory. The internal and external reviews led the Dean in March of 1995 to appoint a task force on cancer center consolidation. This action was strongly supported by the Directors of the two cancer centers, their external advisory committees, several Medical School review committees, and the Cancer Centers Branch of the NCI.
By January 1996, the Task Force provided the Dean with a number of specific recommendations for the development of the consolidated cancer center. The resources of the consolidated Center would include the gift and institutional funds currently under control of the UWCCC Director and, subject to peer review, the combined CCSG support awarded to the UWCCC and the McArdle Laboratory. The space resources of the consolidated cancer center were to include the space currently assigned to the UWCCC and additional space assigned by the Dean. The McArdle Laboratory would devote significant space to shared services of the consolidated Center.
Following an intensive national search, Dr. John Niederhuber was appointed Director in 1997, and the two centers held the first joint meeting of their External Advisory Committees. At this meeting, the progress that had been made toward consolidation, and the proposed scientific programs of the consolidated center were reviewed, and the administrative structure of the new center was presented. The cancer center leadership plan was received with great enthusiasm and the external advisors urged the UWCCC leadership to begin to implement these changes. Thus, in January 1999, the two centers began to function as a single center under the new administrative alignment. The eight new programs strongly endorsed by external advisors also began to replace the activities of the existing programs.