Major Milestones Against Cancer

Major Milestones Against Cancer

The Cancer Progress Timeline is a historical overview of ground-breaking advances in cancer research and care that have improved the outlook for patients led to better quality of life. With more than 400 milestones, the Timeline spans 170 years, including advances such as the advent of general anesthesia and its use for cancer surgery in the mid-1800s, the signing of the National Cancer Act into law in 1971, and recent breakthroughs in immunotherapy.

The Timeline features a chronology of Major Milestones of ground-breaking advances across cancer care and research. In addition, there are timelines that detail practice-changing advances for common cancer types and types of care. Many of the advances in the Cancer Progress Timeline have also been featured in ASCO’s Clinical Cancer Advances report, which tells the story of each year’s most influential research.

Logo for National Cancer Act's 50th anniversary2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act, which opened a new era of cancer research in the United States. It led to a major expansion of funding for cancer research and paved the way for the next five decades of progress and advances in cancer prevention, screening, and treatment. Many of the advances in the Progress Timeline are directly attributable or can trace their development, to federal research funding. These advances are marked by ASCO’s federally funded research badge.

To learn more about the powerful impact of the National Cancer Act, read this commentary in ASCO Connection.

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1884

Radical mastectomy ushers in more aggressive surgical approaches for cancer

Radical mastectomy ushers in more aggressive surgical approaches for cancer

Baltimore surgeon William Halsted pioneers a new approach to removing breast tumors, radical mastectomy, in which the entire breast and the surrounding lymph nodes and chest muscles are removed. This helps reduce recurrences of the disease, which was previously nearly always fatal. Halsted's work also leads to similar approaches for other cancers, in which both the tumor and surrounding tissue are removed. These techniques are still an important part of treatment for some cancers today. For breast cancer, however, surgeries have become far more conservative and effective, enabling many women to avoid mastectomy altogether.

1846

Advent of general anesthesia opens the door for modern cancer surgery

Advent of general anesthesia opens the door for modern cancer surgery

In October 1846, a Boston dentist named William T.G. Morton provides the first public demonstration of ether as a general anesthetic, allowing surgeons to remove a tumor from a patient's jaw without pain. This advance gains immediate and widespread attention, ultimately eliminating the excruciating pain experienced by surgical patients until that time, and making the modern era of surgery possible.