In 1971, President Nixon famously began the “war on cancer” by signing the National Cancer Act. The Act, however, was not the beginning of the NIH’s attempt to promote cancer research and treatment but instead was a reinforcement of the goals of the National Cancer Institute founded in 1937. The 1971 Act expanded the budgetary and programmatic functions controlled from within the National Cancer Program and gave the director a direct line to the Office of the President outside of the NIH.
By the time of the 1971 National Cancer Act the University of Minnesota had spent 50 years of establishing cancer treatment and research through charitable giving.
Cancer treatment and care as a focus formally began in 1923 when the Citizens Aid Society led by Mrs. Carolyn McKnight Christian donated $250,000 to the University to open a 50-bed hospital for the treatment of cancer in honor of her husband, Mr. George Chase Christian. The gift also included money for the purchase of equipment and cobalt for radiation therapy. The Christian Wing was appended onto Elliot Memorial Hospital and is still structurally a part of the Mayo Memorial complex.
In the 1950s the Minnesota Masons followed suit with a campaign to establish an 80-bed facility with research space. Shortly after is successful completion in 1958 the Masons went on to raise the funds to add two additional floors to the facility and 50 more beds. The Masonic gifts to the University also included the establishment of an endowed Masonic Professorship in Cancer.
In 1958 the Veterans of Foreign Wars donated $300,000 for cancer research space at the University. The research facilities were built adjacent to the Masonic Memorial Cancer Hospital.
By the mid 1980s, the Medical School and those involved in cancer research in other disciplines began a push to establish a formal cancer center on campus. The University of Minnesota’s Cancer Center opened in 1991.
Read the 1988 prospectus for the Cancer Center below and note the emphasis on interdisciplinary programming.