Department of Defense
United States Army Medical Research and Development Command
Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs

Released: December 23, 2021

CDMRP Commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the National Cancer Act: Continuing the Fight to Conquer Cancer

In 1970, the second leading cause of death in the United States was cancer and the American people expressed an urgent desire to find a cure. During the 1971 State of the Union address, President Nixon responded by stating his intent to request a $100 million (M) appropriation to launch an intensive national campaign to find a cure for cancer. Fulfilling his promise, on December 23, 1971 President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act into law and declared a national “War on Cancer.” This declaration initiated ongoing partnerships among the U.S. Government, the American public, and the scientific community to cure cancer.

Similarly, the origins of the U.S. Army’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) can be traced back to public concerns over cancer and its toll on the American public. In the early 1990s, the breast cancer advocacy community launched a powerful grassroots effort to raise awareness on the need for increased funding for breast cancer research. In response, Congress appropriated funds to the fiscal year 1992 Department of Defense Appropriations Act for breast cancer research resulting in the creation of the CDMRP. Thus, the CDMRP arose from unique partnerships among the American public, Congress, and the military and these partnerships remain a key cornerstone in CDMRP’s approach to funding innovative and impactful research.

“Since its inception, CDMRP’s Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) has funded innovative research that is truly making a difference in the lives of those diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Army Colonel Sarah Goldman, CDMRP’s director. “Breast cancer is a significant health issue for military Service Members, with female active duty Service Members having a 20-40% higher incidence rate of breast cancer than the general public. I am proud that medical research funded by CDMRP’s BCRP has made important advances in care including six FDA-approved drugs and devices, nine diagnostics and biomarkers in clinical use, and three changes in clinical practice. CDMRP coordinates closely with other medical research funding organizations to ensure that we maximize the value of our federal research efforts and that we remain committed to ending breast cancer.”

A key hallmark of the CDMRP is the partnership with consumers. “Since the beginning, advocates have participated in all aspects of the program cycle,” said Tracy Behrsing, BCRP Program Manager. “Their voices and experiences add a sense of urgency and unique perspective as the program works towards achieving its mission of ending breast cancer for Service Members, Veterans, and the general public.”

Frances M. Visco, Esq., President of the National Breast Cancer Coalition and consumer on the BCRP Programmatic Panel said, “Fifty years ago when the National Cancer Act was signed into law, it was intended to launch a national commitment to conquer cancer. As a long time breast cancer survivor and activist, I am encouraged by the commitment of the Department of Defense to the mission of the peer reviewed breast cancer research program. This is the type of partnership between government and the public that will find the answers so we will not experience another 50 years of lives lost. In commemoration of the National Cancer Act anniversary, I salute the CDMRP and their dedication to our shared mission to end breast cancer.”

In addition to the BCRP, the CDMRP has expanded over time and now manages 36 Congressionally-directed medical research programs to include additional cancer programs such as kidney, lung, melanoma, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, and rare cancers. While there have been many advances in the cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment over the years, there is still much work to be done. Through the continuation of critical partnerships with consumer advocates, scientists, and Congress, the CDMRP aims to contribute significantly to conquering cancer.

Signing Cancer Act 1971 photo

President Nixon Signing the National Cancer Act of 1971
Photo credit: Linda Bartlett, National Cancer Institute

For more information about the CDMRP, our research programs, previous awardees, as well as research highlights please visit the website at

Point of Contact:
CDMRP Public Affairs

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Last updated Thursday, May 26, 2022