A Brief History of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
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There was a time, in the not so distant past, when a diagnosis of cancer was equated with death. The study of neoplasia, or cancer, was considered a "dirty" science, and surgery and rudimentary radiation therapy were a patient's only hope for survival, much less cure. In 1913 the American Society for the Control of Cancer (what became the American Cancer Society) was founded, and the following year members of the Texas Medical Association (TMA) formed a Committee on Cancer. This group called for increased education of physicians and the public about cancer, early detection, and thorough and accurate record keeping and follow-up of cancer patients.
During the 1920s the anti-cancer movement became a national, organized attack on cancer, and the TMA’s Committee on Cancer followed the direction of the American Medical Association and the American Society for the Control of Cancer and set up education programs through county medical societies. But Texas badly needed a specialized hospital for the treatment of cancer, and finally in 1929 the state legislature passed legislation calling for the establishment of a cancer, insane, and pellagra hospital in Dallas. The legislature made no budget appropriation for the cancer hospital, however, even when legislators renewed the authorization in 1931, and so no hospital materialized.
Heavy crusading by physicians, medical societies, lay organizations, and interested individuals continued in Texas, and in February of 1941 Arthur Cato, longtime member of the Texas House of Representatives, introduced H.B. 268 to establish a state cancer hospital. The bill was not without controversy, however, and had to be revised in order to affiliate the new cancer hospital with The University of Texas cancer research program of basic science research in biochemistry and radiology. The revised bill gave the Board of Trustees of The University of Texas responsibility for the hospital’s location, control and management. The Texas House finally passed H.B. 268 in May of 1941, appropriating $2,750,000 to establish a state cancer hospital and division of cancer research. The Senate reduced the appropriation to $500,000 before passing the bill. Governor W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel approved the bill on June 30, 1941, and the Texas State Cancer Hospital and the Division of Cancer Research was created for “the diagnosis, teaching, study, prevention, and treatment of neoplasia and allied diseases.”
Monroe D. Anderson, Houston cotton broker and philanthropist, created the MD Anderson Foundation in 1936, and among its benevolent and charitable purposes was “the promotion of health, science, education, and advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding among the people.” After MD Anderson’s death in 1939, the trustees began to make plans to establish a “great medical center” in Houston, and soon after the legislative appropriation for a state cancer hospital was announced the trustees began meeting with the president and Board of Regents of The University of Texas.
The Anderson Foundation offered to provide a temporary site, as well as a site for its permanent quarters in the proposed Texas Medical Center, and a minimum of $500,000, if The University of Texas would rename the cancer hospital for Monroe D. Anderson. In August of 1942 the Board of Regents accepted the offer, and the hospital was renamed the MD Anderson Hospital for Cancer Research of The University of Texas. The Anderson Foundation acquired property known as “The Oaks,” or the Baker Estate, in 1942, and by the end of the year four research scientists and a business manager on loan from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston began work at the Baker Estate. In 1944 the hospital was formally dedicated and began to see patients—both inpatient and outpatient.
Thus was born what has become a premier cancer hospital in the United States and one of the best cancer centers in the world today, based on the quality of its research-driven patient care and science. MD Anderson is a hybrid of an outstanding research university and an exceptional clinical center for the care of cancer patients that has consistently ranked among the top two cancer hospitals in the nation since 1990 and ranked first four out of the last five years. One of the first state cancer hospitals that still exists today, its mission has remained largely unchanged—to eradicate cancer in the world through exceptional programs in patient care, research, education, and prevention. Since 1944, MD Anderson has cared for more than 600,000 individuals, offering a wide range of cancer treatment. This integrated, multidisciplinary approach, now common among cancer treatment centers, was pioneered at MD Anderson and fundamental to its early development and growth. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) named MD Anderson one of the nation’s first three Comprehensive Cancer Centers in 1972, and today the institution receives more peer-reviewed research grants from the NCI than any other academic institution in the United States. More than 12,000 patients, for whom available standard therapy is inadequate, currently participate in clinical research trials. At the same time, M.D. Anderson has developed an outstanding reputation in basic research that has had an impact far beyond cancer medicine.
This year, about 60,000 persons with cancer will receive care at MD Anderson, and about 22,000 of them will be new patients. More than half of these patients come from outside Texas seeking the research-based care that has made MD Anderson so widely respected. More than 11,000 patients participated in clinical research trials exploring new therapies and diagnostic tests in 2003, the largest program in the nation.
MD Anderson holds Accreditation with Commendation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the highest level of accreditation given by the nation's oldest body charged with improving the quality of healthcare given to the public.
MD Anderson contributes more research to patient care than any other academic center. Important scientific knowledge gained in the laboratory is rapidly translated into clinical care through research trials. MD Anderson now ranks first in the number of grants awarded nationwide by both the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. The research program is considered one of the most productive efforts in the world aimed solely at cancer.
About 2,900 students take part in educational programs each year, which includes physicians, scientists, nurses and many health professionals. For the first time, MD Anderson is offering bachelor's degrees in five allied health disciplines. Several hundred residents and fellows come to MD Anderson each year to receive specialized training in the investigation and treatment of cancer. Nearly 350 graduate students are working for Ph.D. degrees in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, which MD Anderson runs jointly with the UT Health Science Center at Houston. More than 1,000 postdoctoral fellows are being trained in MD Anderson's research laboratories.
Thousands more participate in continuing education and distance learning opportunities sponsored by MD Anderson, sharing knowledge around the globe. Likewise, MD Anderson provides public education programs to teach healthy individuals about cancer symptoms and risk factors, and how to make critical health care decisions when necessary.
Recognizing that, ultimately, prevention is the best way to eliminate the threat of cancer, MD Anderson has initiated a multifaceted effort. Expanded research efforts in epidemiology and behavioral sciences complement achievements made in the clinical cancer arena. Laboratory activities support developmental and practical applications of cancer prevention. Cancer prevention services are offered in individual and corporate programs, from personalized risk assessments to screening and genetic counseling.
MD Anderson now employs over 12,000 people and enjoys a volunteer workforce of about 1,400 volunteers who provide more than 270,000 hours of service each year. Faculty, staff and volunteers are dedicated to the core values of Caring, Integrity and Discovery. Together, they work toward fulfilling the MD Anderson mission of eliminating cancer as a major health threat.