History & Overview

Our History

Download this special edition of Act Against Cancer to learn more about what made the University of Arizona Cancer Center one of the world's leaders in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

Founded in 1976 as a Division of The University of Arizona's College of Medicine, the University of Arizona Cancer Center is a Center of Excellence in the Arizona Health Sciences Center. In 1978, the cancer center received its first NCI Support Grant for $1 million, designating it as an official cancer research and treatment center. In 1990, The University of Arizona Cancer Center was designated as one of the first comprehensive cancer centers by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The University of Arizona Cancer Center is the only comprehensive cancer center headquartered in Arizona.

Academic/Research Programs

The primary responsibility of an NCI comprehensive cancer center is to conduct research that will lead to the reduction of cancer morbidity and mortality. A framework for this research consists of focusing upon the molecular and cellular mechanisms of oncogenesis. Molecular mechanisms emphasize genetic, epigenetic, and signaling mechanisms, while cellular mechanisms emphasize the biology of invasion and metastasis, as well as stromal-cellular interactions. With the primacy of this research mission in mind, the research programs and core services constitute a bedrock of The University of Arizona Cancer Center. Overall, The University of Arizona Cancer Center has four scientific research programs that work together to accomplish the Center’s mission to prevent and cure cancer:

These research programs collaborate concerning a breadth of issues from benchtop to bedside involving translational and clinical research with a major emphasis on discovery. Furthermore, the programs also focus on the development and delivery of novel treatments to reduce the morbidity and mortality of cancer in the Southwest and across the nation.

The University of Arizona Cancer Center provides an essential forum to foster outstanding basic and clinical translational research, interdisciplinary collaboration, education, training and internal and external peer review. The infrastructure of the research program support is established by 10 shared services to support our research, education and training mission: Analytical Core; Behavioral Measurements; Informatics/Bioinformatics; Biometry; Imaging Core; Clinical Research; Experimental Mouse; Flow Cytometry; Genomics; Proteomics; and Tissue Acquisition, Cellular and Molecular Analysis.

The extensive research portfolio of The University of Arizona Cancer Center includes more than $40 million in annual research funding, including three large NCI interdisciplinary programs and collaborative research grants, and two Special Programs of Research Excellence, one in gastrointestinal cancers and one in lymphoma.

Clinical Programs

The University of Arizona Cancer Center has its outpatient clinics based at The University of Arizona Medical Center North and Orange Grove campuses in Tucson, with multi-disciplinary clinics in: BMT-Leukemia; Breast Cancer; Gastrointestinal Cancers; Genitourinary Cancers; Gynecologic Cancers; High-Risk Cancer Genetics; Lung Cancers; Lymphoma; Neuro-Oncology; Pediatric Hematology/Oncology; Sarcoma; and Skin Cancer. These clinics include multi-disciplinary patient care conferences for prospective patient management. Radiation Oncology is located at The University of Arizona Medical Center - University Campus adjacent to the Cancer Center's Salmon and Levy research buildings on the Arizona Health Sciences Center campus, and at The University of Arizona Cancer Center - Orange Grove. The Pediatric Hematology/Oncology/BMT clinic is also located at The University of Arizona Medical Center - University Campus.

Two Research Institutes within The University of Arizona Cancer Center

Two innovative institutes have been established within The University of Arizona Cancer Center to focus upon special populations. 

The Cancer Health Disparities Institute addresses cancer disparities in underserved populations in Arizona by bringing together and synergizing the strengths and expertise of several units at the University of Arizona. This institute will provide research and training opportunities for investigators proposing research or planning to work in underserved communities.

The Skin Cancer Institute aims to unify various skin cancer-related research and educational activities into one coordinated entity. The Skin Cancer Institute brings together innovative research, visionary, clinical care and life changing education and outreach under one roof. 

Economic Impact

The translational research performed by University of Arizona Cancer Center investigators has resulted in the development of at least 17 bio-technology and pharmaceutical companies, mostly in Arizona.

Biotechnology companies include: Ventana Medical Systems, Cancer Technologies, DeMetrix, and ImaRx.

Pharmaceutical companies focused on cancer treatment include: AmpliMed, Arizona Cancer Therapeutics, Cylene, Montigen Pharmaceuticals, ProLx, Sanofi Aventis, and Targeted Cancer Therapeutics, LLC.

Pharmaceutical companies focused on cancer prevention include: Cancer Prevention Pharmaceuticals, Clinuvel, Niadyne, Surface Safe, Topical Technologies, Inc., and PHusis Therapeutics.

A study performed by the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona in 2008 suggests that the impact of a sustained $70 million in annual research funding through The University of Arizona Cancer Center includes: 5,180 jobs, $237 million in wages, $795 million in gross sales, $7 million in city and county revenues, and $10.5 million in state revenues.