50 Years of Progress

A collage of various laboratory and science photos with 50 overlayed on top

“I have come here today for the purpose of making an announcement with regard to this facility, which has, of course, an effect on all the people who live in this area; but it also has an enormous effect in terms of the future of the people of the United States, and probably the future of the people of the world.” 


President Richard Nixon spoke these words on the sunny morning of October 18, 1971, as he stood on the grounds of Fort Detrick, Maryland. He announced that part of the facility, a collection of recently closed biowarfare laboratories, would be converted into a leading center for cancer research, creating the facility now known as the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. 

Two months later, on December 23, he signed the National Cancer Act of 1971 into law, cementing the creation of this new center. 

Fifty years have passed, and the Frederick National Laboratory has become an internationally recognized center of excellence in cancer, AIDS, and infectious disease research. A graphic visualizing 50 next to the text National Cancer Act 1971-2021

We are a devoted scientific enterprise, a national resource, and a partner to scientists around the world. We’ve been the home of major discoveries, developed outstanding capabilities, and executed projects and initiatives that few other groups would do. As some have come to say, “Who, if not us?” 

Like all science, our story has its share of hurdles and setbacks, but it’s primarily one of progress. 

This year, our semicentennial anniversary, we celebrate that. We will be sharing stories and photos of our history and contributions to biomedical research, all of which can be found here. You can also follow us on social media to join the conversation. 

Our commemoration is a satellite to the National Cancer Institute’s NCA 50 commemorative event, which runs throughout 2021. Be sure to follow NCI on social media for posts and updates about it. 

We’re proud of our half-century of service to public health. Here’s to many more years of progress made for our neighbors nationwide and around the world. 



A black-and-white photo of two outpatient beds

An ember in the soul: A tribute to clinical trial participants

The National Cancer Institute is currently supporting more than 6,700 clinical trials. 

A new institution for cancer research is born

On October 18, 1971, President Richard Nixon emerged from the U.S. Army Post Headquarters at Fort Detrick into the sunlight of one of Frederick’s signature autumn mornings.

Program pioneers a path for Frederick’s science

As the winter of 1973 turned to spring, the Frederick Cancer Research Center (FCRC), the forerunner to the Frederick National Laboratory and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at Frederick that exist today, neared the one-year mark since its opening.