CCR's Research Program Overview

Our Landmark Discoveries Over the Years

  • Doug Lowy, M.D. and John Schiller, Ph.D.

    Two researchers leveraged CCR’s unique environment of investigator-driven inquiry to pursue studies of two cancer-causing genes that eventually led to the development of a vaccine against two forms of human papillomavirus.

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  • Anita Roberts, Ph.D. and Michael Sporn, M.D.

    After discovering TGF-ß in 1981, CCR scientists thoroughly characterized the molecule, revealing ways it might be used to treat cancer.

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  • An enzyme repairs a broken DNA strand.

    Taking advantage of their ability to explore provocative ideas, NCI investigators pioneered the study of chromatin to demonstrate its functional importance and lay the groundwork for understanding its role in cancer and other diseases.

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  • A colorized scanning electron micrograph of a T lymphocyte used in immunotherapy.

    CCR researchers pioneered the therapeutic use of a class of cytokines called interleukins, successfully harnessing their therapeutic potential to treat patients.

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  • Steven Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., with Linda Taylor

    More than 30 years ago the idea was heretical: a patient’s immune system could be harnessed to fight cancer. NCI scientists’ pursuit of this idea chartered the development of immunotherapy.  

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  • Marston Linehan, M.D., discusses treatment with a patient.

    CCR investigators were among the first to classify tumors based on genetics, laying the groundwork for today’s common practice to molecularly characterize tumors based on their genetic fingerprints for personalized treatments.

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  • Composite image of the beta-galactosidase molecule

    Innovative imaging methods developed and refined within CCR revealed atomic-level structures of biological molecules and unveiled dynamic views of a cell’s interior that are driving the design of new treatments and diagnostics for cancer.

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  • An HIV-infected T cell (blue, green) interacts with an uninfected cell (brown, purple).

    Faced with the burgeoning HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, NCI’s intramural program developed the first therapies to effectively treat the disease. These discoveries helped transform a fatal diagnosis to the manageable condition it is for many today.

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  • Peter Pinto, M.D., and Peter Choyke, M.D., use UroNav to improve accuracy of prostate cancer imaging.

    Precisely locating and killing tumors in the body without harming surrounding cells is a major challenge in cancer treatment. CCR researchers have helped design breakthrough imaging technologies to better understand where and how tumors grow.

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  • H2AX as a Sensor of DNA Damage

    Curiosity about histones led to the discovery that the protein H2AX is altered in response to harmful DNA damage called a double-strand break. This powerful tool has led to breakthroughs in both basic and clinical cancer research.

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CCR's Mission

To improve the lives of cancer patients by solving important, challenging and neglected problems in cancer research.

The Center for Cancer Research (CCR) is the basic and clinical intramural research program (IRP) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Our researchers work in a distinctive environment:

  • Intellectual freedom to pursue the most important problems in cancer research and treatment.
  • Stable funding enabling research requiring a long time horizon and in areas of high risk and neglected areas.
  • An institutional culture that is highly collaborative.
  • Access to broad clinical trial support resources and plentiful research beds at the NIH Clinical Center, the world’s largest dedicated research hospital.
  • More than 40 cutting edge technical facilities and cores accessible to all CCR researchers at no or subsidized cost.
  • Partnerships with academic institutions, commercial entities and patient advocacy groups.

CCR Areas of Research Excellence

Special Initiatives and Programs

CCR has established several programs to address specific areas of cancer research:

Cancer Moonshot – CCR is an active participant in the NCI Cancer Moonshot, which seeks to accelerate cancer research to make more therapies available to more patients, while also improving our ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.

Center for Advanced Preclinical Research (CAPR) – This center conducts comprehensive preclinical testing of early-stage candidate drugs. 

Center for Molecular Microscopy (CMM) – This center is developing new techniques and technologies for high resolution imaging by electron microscopy in 3D.

Comparative Oncology Program (COP) – This program helps researchers gain a better understanding the biology of cancer and improve the assessment of novel treatments for humans by treating pet animals with naturally occurring cancers.

NCI CCR Liver Cancer Program – A multidisciplinary network of researchers and clinicians dedicated to improving early detection, diagnosis and treatment of liver cancer.

NIH Foregut Team – This team focuses on clinical research and care of patients with tumors of the foregut, which includes the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver and bile ducts.