Cancer describes an enormous spectrum of diseases that all originate from uncontrolled cellular growth. Broadly divided into benign tumors (unable to metastasize) or malignant tumors (able to invade normal tissues), cancers are further defined and classified by their cell type, tissue, or organ of origin. Cancer remains the number two cause of death in the U.S., second only to heart disease, and the Intramural Research Program (IRP) is committed to advancing research, building expertise, and leveraging resources to address this global challenge. Our scientists are constantly learning more about the causes of cancer, and developing new and better ways to prevent, detect, and treat it.
IRP cancer research encompasses an incredible diversity of disciplines, from population epidemiology, basic research and drug discovery, through the drug development process, to clinical trials conducted both nationwide and at the NIH Clinical Center. Our broad areas of cancer research include:
- Molecular biology
- Cell biology
- Clinical genetics and genomics
With such an extensive range of expertise required to fully understand the complexities of cancer biology, the formation of collaborative research groups became an important part of the IRP’s research model. For example, within the National Cancer Institute (NCI), five Centers of Excellence (CoE) were established to act as central points for resources and infrastructure in the drive to discover, develop, and deliver interventions for those living with cancer. The Centers encompass chromosome biology, genitourinary malignancies, cancer virology, immunology, and integrative cancer biology and genomics.
The uniquely collaborative environment, shared expertise, availability of resources, and drive to make a difference in people’s lives has resulted in a number of important IRP discoveries in the realm of cancer biology: work leading to the commercial development of a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer; discovery of the role that NF-kappaB plays in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; identification and detection of a number of genetic mutations linked to hereditary kidney cancers; research into the potential for immunotherapy to treat both nonmalignant hematological disorders and metastatic kidney cancer; and an innovative adoptive cell transfer (ACT) therapy for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.