On December 23, 1971, the National Cancer Act was signed into law by Former President Richard Nixon, granting authority to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) director to develop a national cancer program. In December 2021, First Lady Jill Biden celebrated the legislation’s 50th anniversary in an NCI video, in which she recognized the importance of the act, cancer advocacy, and the disease’s personal impact on her family.
“Despite our tremendous progress, the heartbreaking reality is that cancer is still a leading cause of death in our country,” First Lady Biden said. “We still don’t have enough methods to prevent it. Some treatments come with serious side effects, and inequities lead to far too many lives lost.”
In the video, First Lady Biden credited the researchers, policymakers, and direct care team members who are fighting to make a difference for patients with cancer and their families. President Joe Biden also commemorated the anniversary in a December 2021 statement from the White House.
“Fifty years ago, cancer screening and detection were in their infancy, treatment options were limited, and researchers worked largely in the dark,” he said. “The National Cancer Act helped launch programs that form the backbone of today’s cancer research enterprise by bolstering NCI at the National Institutes of Health, establishing NCI-designated cancer centers, creating national networks to conduct clinical trials, and building systems to collect, share, and advance cancer data research.”
The president also credited the historic legislation for our understanding of new treatments to fight cancer and an ongoing decline in the overall cancer death rate in the United States.
The research and innovation during the past 50 years showcase the nation’s dedication to patients with cancer. Oncology healthcare professionals—whether providing direct care at the bed- or chairside, conducting clinical trials at the benchside, or innovating and advocating for change—have contributed incredible work and additions to that achievement, particularly the frontline oncology nurses who ensure quality care for every patient with cancer.