Major Milestones Against Cancer

Major Milestones Against Cancer

The Cancer Progress Timeline is an interactive, data-rich resource that provides an historical overview of major advances in cancer that have led to better patient outcomes and quality of life. More than 400 milestones spanning 170 years are chronicled in the Timeline—from the advent of general anesthesia opening the door for cancer surgery in the mid-1800s to the first gene therapy for cancer approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2017.

The Major Milestones Against Cancer Timeline highlights some of the most important advances across cancer care and research. Many of these milestones were supported by federal research funding, and nearly all of them are the result of rigorously conducted clinical trials, made possible by the participation of thousands of individuals with cancer. ASCO’s federally funded research badge is featured on milestones that stemmed from research funded at least in part by the National Cancer Institute or other federal agencies.

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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.