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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Research Section Overview


The Center for Cancer Research (CCR) is the basic and clinical intramural research program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). CCR is a distinctive community of scientists and clinicians who integrate basic research discovery with the development of novel interventions against cancer and HIV/AIDS.

CCR investigators conduct high-risk, high-impact research; studies that require the type of long-term, sustained support that may not be possible elsewhere. Discoveries at the CCR have advanced our understanding of the biology of cancer and other diseases; many have been translated into new diagnostics and treatments for patients.


CCR's Research Program

  • Provides a highly interactive, multidisciplinary culture for basic and clinical researchers
  • Accelerates the translation of new discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic
  • Supports the study of rare cancers and underserved patient populations
  • Responds quickly to urgent public health needs, new goals, and new opportunities
  • Invests in the development of new technology and approaches
  • Promotes collaborations within NIH as well as partnerships with private industry and academia
  • Is committed to training the next generation of scientific leaders

Technologies and Scientific Resources

The Office of Science and Technology Resources (OSTR) identifies, evaluates and makes available new technologies and scientific resources to CCR investigators through partnerships, collaborations, contracts and other technology transfer agreements with outside organizations, including the private sector.


NCI Centers of Excellence and Working Groups

Centers of Excellence serve to support the CCR’s dedication to long-term, high-risk, basic and clinical research in our areas of greatest strength:

Immunology – fosters the translation of basic research discoveries into successful immunotherapies, as demonstrated by decades of advances in the field. See a timeline of these advances here.

Chromosome Biology – brings together experts from various disciplines who are working towards a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms involved in chromosome function and the aberrations in these processes that lead to disease

Genitourinary Malignancies – provides an infrastructure aimed at accelerating the discovery, development and delivery of interventions to diagnose and treat bladder, kidney, and prostate cancer

Integrative Cancer Biology and Genomics – promotes the innovative use of genetic and genomic approaches and technologies for basic science discoveries and clinical research applications

NCI intramural faculties and working groups are composed of basic, clinical, and epidemiological researchers working together with a common interest in a particular scientific discipline, disease, or approach.  Learn more . . .


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.

Rare Diseases – This program focuses on rare cancers and diseases as well cancers that may be predominant in medically underserved populations.

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

Multidisciplinary Bladder Cancer Program – At CCR, patients with bladder cancer have the benefit of a team of specialists dedicated to bladder cancer research.

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.

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.