Georgia's Online Cancer Information Center

Letter from the Editor & Publisher: Presenting the Cancer History Project

1/12/2021, Cancer Letter

Historical documents have a way of vanishing. Manuscripts, letters, and photographs end up in city dumps. Memories become less granular, insight is lost. The documents that do get preserved often require a trip to the archives.

Cancer research, a field of science that half-a-century ago was assigned top priority under the National Cancer Act of 1971, must not be allowed to lose connection with history.

We have spent the past couple of years inventing a way to tell the enormous story of cancer research and place a cache of documents within easy reach of researchers, students, and patients.

This groundwork has produced the Cancer History Project, which we have the honor of presenting to you today.

The Cancer History Project is a free, web-based, collaborative resource  intended to mark the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act and designed to continue in perpetuity.

The objective is to assemble a robust collection of historical documents and make them freely available. Access to the Cancer History Project is open to the public at You can also follow us on Twitter at @CancerHistProj.

Edited by Otis Brawley and Paul Goldberg, this resource draws on the expertise of an editorial board of physicians, scientists, advocates, historians, and communicators.

The goal of the Cancer History Project is to create a starting point for a broader discussion of history and community—and enable finding answers to fundamental questions and deep scholarly research.

The Cancer Letter is uniquely positioned to offer its vast historical resources and—through curation informed by decades of institutional knowledge—to build a central repository for documents from other organizations.

The Cancer Letter was founded in 1973, two years after the signing of the National Cancer Act, and has come out every week for over 46 years, creating a real-time, detailed record.

We are placing the first 30 years of coverage—from 1973 to 2003—onto the website, making this material publicly available and searchable. This archive is available here.

The Cancer History Project begins with the publication of historical materials and is designed to expand beyond the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act. The project is organized according to monthly topics, with content published both in The Cancer Letter and on

In addition to the 30-year archive of The Cancer Letter, the Cancer History Project includes contemporary coverage, all obituaries, and select special reports.

This is a massive project, and it will take shape before your eyes.

We have created an editorial calendar for 2021, but we will remain flexible as the project evolves—and we are eager to hear your creative ideas.

The Cancer History Project is a participant in NCI’s 50th Anniversary “Nothing Will Stop Us” campaign that celebrates progress in cancer research (The Cancer Letter, Oct. 16 2020).

This announcement is the beginning of a process of storytelling. In the coming weeks, we will add the archives of The Clinical Cancer Letter, publish manuscripts we have uncovered, catalogue oral histories, and post historical documents and primary source materials we have in our possession and those provided by academic institutions and scholars.

We need your guidance, the participation of your institution, and sponsorship.

We are confident that, together, we will be able to tell this epic story of small steps and big leaps upon the path of discovery.

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