President Nixon signs the National Cancer Act in 1971. Photo courtesy of the National Cancer Institute.

The Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research was established as the Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center in 1972 when about 70 acres and 67 buildings of the U.S. Army were transferred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since then, the Frederick National Laboratory has become an internationally recognized center of scientific excellence in cancer and AIDS research and development.

In 1975, the National Science Foundation notified HHS that NCI-Frederick met the criteria for and was designated as a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), a government-owned, contractor-operated facility designed to achieve long-term research and development needs that could not be met as effectively by existing in-house or contractor resources.

The FFRDC provides a rapid response capability by using private sector resources to accomplish tasks that are integral to the mission and operation of NCI, and to keep pace with new discoveries, development opportunities, and health-care priorities.

In 1976, all buildings and acreage utilized by the Frederick National Laboratory were formally transferred from the Department of Defense/Department of the Army to HHS/NIH.

In 2012, the Federally Funded Research and Development Center in Frederick was named the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, formally designating the facility as a federal national laboratory and elevating its national mission.

At the same time, the National Cancer Institute empaneled the Frederick National Laboratory Advisory Committee of up to 16 members, national experts in a wide range of relevant fields, to meet twice a year, review the state of research at the facility, and make recommendations for the best use of its capabilities and infrastructure.