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Cancer research units’ merger set for 2001

July 14, 1998

As the new millennium approaches, the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research is poised for a consolidation with the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center (UWCCC). The merger will take place in 2001.

“We are very optimistic,” said McArdle Director Dr. Norman Drinkwater. “Recent advancements and current technology make this a very exciting time to do research.”

McArdle has been funded as a National Cancer Institute (NCI) “center” for nearly 35 years. The Cancer Institute recently renewed the funding, providing $7.1 million for core resources over the next three years. Long-running funding for two multi-pronged investigator research grants, amounting to over $15 million for five years, has also been renewed.

With the merger, McArdle and the UWCCC will join forces under one banner, meshing administrative and support capabilities and sharing newly identified, common strategic goals. UWCCC Director Dr. John Niederhuber, a surgeon and scientist who deeply appreciates the value of bench research, is spearheading the move to consolidate.

The merger will reinforce the Medical School’s long-running support of cancer research and patient care .

“The McArdle Laboratory is a major factor in our continuing commitment to making cancer research one of our highest strategic priorities,” said UW Medical School Dean Philip Farrell. “We will benefit greatly from the carefully planned merger of these two outstanding entities.”

When Harold Rusch founded McArdle in 1940, it was the first American academic center devoted solely to basic cancer research. His far-reaching vision also resulted in the 1973 creation of the UWCCC, which later earned comprehensive status from the NCI.

“By bringing McArdle’s research strength into closer alignment with the talents of our clinical and research faculty, we expect to make the world-class Wisconsin initiative even better,” said Niederhuber.

Over the years, McArdle faculty have:

  • discovered how environmental carcinogens start cellular changes that can produce tumors;
  • developed the drug 5-FU, a commonly prescribed anti-cancer agent;
  • laid the theoretical groundwork for multi-drug chemotherapy;
  • demonstrated the role of high-fat diets in cancer; and
  • identified the Nobel-prize-winning phenomenon known as reverse transcription.

McArdle also has earned a reputation as an outstanding training facility.

“Excellence in research has always been a top priority for us, but we are equally committed to educating the next generation of first-rate scientists,” said Drinkwater, noting that McArdle’s NCI training grant for doctoral students is the largest in the nation. McArdle alumni now hold leadership positions at academic and research institutes around the world and have made key discoveries, such as finding a gene for breast cancer, he added.

As the home of UW Medical School’s department of oncology charged with a dual research and training mission, McArdle has a culture of its own. The 200 faculty, students and staff members work closely in a communal environment near the academic and physical center of campus, where strong connections to all basic science departments at the university have been forged.

The UWCCC has been organized around clinical and research objectives at its UW Hospital base. A core group of center faculty from the Medical School’s departments of human oncology and medicine is complemented by a larger pool of member investigators from other departments across campus.

Plans to consolidate the two centers began three years ago, with committees and task forces addressing countless issues. One of the biggest challenges has been synchronizing NCI grant application cycles so that renewal for the next round will occur in 2001. With that process now complete, the focus will be on identifying common research objectives within the two centers.

“Though many details remain to be worked out, we’re confident the consolidation will lead to new opportunities to translate basic research discoveries to the clinic,” said Drinkwater.

Tags: research