Cancer researchers, including Nobel laureates, center directors, gather at Nixon Library to mark 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print

The Richard Nixon Foundation will host the Nixon National Cancer Conference at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, CA, on Dec. 1-2. 

Fifty years ago this December, the Nixon cancer initiative, which was enacted into law with bipartisan support, broke new ground by proposing increased federal funding for research and treatment of one specific disease. 

President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act of 1971 at a ceremony in the White House East Room on Dec. 23, 1971.  “I hope in the years ahead we will look back on this action today as the most significant action taken during my administration,” he said at the time. 

The Richard Nixon Foundation will host a two-day gathering of Nobel laureates, cancer center directors, clinicians, researchers, and political and public health officials to assess the past, analyze the present, and envision the future of cancer treatment and research. 

The conference will be chaired by Andrew von Eschenbach, NCI director from 2001-2005, and FDA commissioner from 2006-2009. 

The first panel, The National Cancer Act—Discovering Cancer’s Secrets, features: 

  • James D. Allison, Nobel laureate
  • David Baltimore, Nobel laureate
  • Phillip Sharp, Nobel laureate
  • Andrew von Eschenbach, former NCI director

The second panel, The National Cancer Act­­—Saving Lives, From Hopelessness to Hope, features: 

  • Madeline Bell, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia 
  • Stephan A. Grupp, section chief of the Cellular Therapy and Transplant Section at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia 
  • Lori Pierce, professor of radiation oncology and vice provost for academic and faculty affairs, University of Michigan; Chair, board of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 
  • Peter Pisters, president of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center 

The third panel, The National Cancer Act—Changing the Future of Cancer, features: 

  • Stephen Hahn, chief medical officer, at Flagship Pioneering/Moderna; Former commissioner of FDA
  • William W. Li, New York Times bestselling author of Eat to Beat Diseas
  • Anna Barker, former deputy director of NCI

To attend in person, register here. The full conference will be streamed live on YouTube here

Spotlight article

A. Lindo Patterson came to Fox Chase Cancer Center in 1949, when it was still known as the Institute for Cancer Research. 

During his time at the institute, he played a major role in running an X-ray structure analysis group and mentoring some of the best young scientists in the field.

“I came to Fox Chase in 1956 because of his excellent science. I considered Patterson to be a role model, particularly because of his willingness to hire women and his dedication to precise studies,” said Jenny Glusker, who started at Fox Chase as a research fellow and is now a professor emerita.

An obituary in the journal Acta Crystallographica described Patterson as possessing “a rare combination of a keen mind, a lively humor, and a gentle disposition.”

Patterson accomplished a great deal at Fox Chase, but he had already made great strides in the scientific community before his arrival at the center. One of his key accomplishments was the groundbreaking Patterson function, an equation in X-ray crystallography that helps determine the three-dimensional atomic structure and characteristics of molecules, information which helped researchers develop new and better drugs.

“He was a very well-known scientist, and it was assumed he’d win a Nobel Prize because he figured out how to take the diffraction pattern of a crystal and work out what the arrangement of atoms in it was. That led people to finally be able to understand how you get pictures of how molecules are arranged,” said Glusker. At that time, most scientists used his formula if they were trying to determine molecular structure by X-ray diffraction.

He never did win the Nobel Prize, however, because of his early death, Glusker said. But he had a storied career nonetheless.

Quote of the week

It was assumed he’d win a Nobel Prize because he figured out how to take the diffraction pattern of a crystal and work out what the arrangement of atoms in it was. That led people to finally be able to understand how you get pictures of how molecules are arranged.

Jenny Glusker

This column features the latest posts to the Cancer History Project by our growing list of contributors

The Cancer History Project is a free, web-based, collaborative resource intended to mark the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act and designed to continue in perpetuity. The objective is to assemble a robust collection of historical documents and make them freely available. 

Access to the Cancer History Project is open to the public at You can also follow us on Twitter at @CancerHistProj.

Is your institution a contributor to the Cancer History Project? Eligible institutions include cancer centers, advocacy groups, professional societies, pharmaceutical companies, and key organizations in oncology. 

To apply to become a contributor, please contact

Table of Contents