History of the Cancer Center

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been at the forefront of groundbreaking cancer research and treatment for decades. This history includes the work of Nobel laureates Earl Sutherland and Stanley Cohen, whose research in cell communication, growth and spread are the foundation of many of today's breakthroughs in cancer treatment. It also included the cornerstone support of the Henry and Joyce families and the A.B. Hancock Jr. families, who had established a clinical care and research center and a laboratory focused on cancer prevention.


Groundbreaking of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, 1993
Left to right: Dr. Roscoe R. (Ike) Robinson; Dr. Harold L. Moses; Mrs. A.B. (Waddell) Hancock Jr.; Frances Williams Preston; E. Bronson Ingram; Edward G. Nelson; Peggy Joyce; and Dr. B.F. Byrd Jr.

Building on this rich legacy, the Vanderbilt Cancer Center was formally established in 1993, under the leadership of Dr. Hal Moses, to bring together all cancer-related research, treatment, education and outreach at Vanderbilt. The Center’s beginning was also made possible by the important support of the T.J. Martell Foundation, which established its Nashville division and the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at Vanderbilt that same year.

The clear objective was to join the premier institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. Only two years later, the first major step toward that objective was accomplished, with an initial designation as a "clinical cancer center." It was the youngest center to go from creation to designation by the NCI, the world’s foremost authority on cancer.

Another significant milestone occurred in 1999, when Nashville's Ingram family made a transformational gift in honor of the late E. Bronson Ingram, philanthropist, businessman and civic leader. Formally named the E. Bronson Ingram Cancer Center at Vanderbilt University, the center quickly became known as the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in recognition of this important partnership to eliminate the pain and suffering caused by cancer in Tennessee, in the United States and around the world.

In 2001, the Center earned NCI's highest distinction as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. It remains one of only 39 in the United States. The center completed a successful competing renewal of that designation in 2004 and became one of very few cancer centers deemed through this rigorous, competitive peer-review as "outstanding" - the very best category in NCI grant scoring.

In 2005, Dr. Moses became director emeritus and remains an active senior faculty member and advisor. He also is director of the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories.

The foundation that Dr. Moses and other founders of the center – including Drs. David Johnson and Lawrence Marnett – has enabled the Center to continue to excel in securing research funding, making important discoveries and gaining recognition as a leader in research, clinical care, education and outreach.

In 2007, the Center was invited to join the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a non-profit alliance of 21 leading centers working together to improve quality and effectiveness of cancer treatment for all patients. Its current director, Jennifer A. Pietenpol, Ph.D., was invited in 2008 to join the President’s National Cancer Advisory Board.

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