Moments in Time A History of Fox Chase Cancer Center

Some Highlights:

  • 1917: Twenty-six-year-old Stanley P. Reimann, MD, a 1913 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, becomes chief pathologist at Lankenau Hospital, then at Girard and Corinthian streets in North Philadelphia. Along with collaborator Frederick S. Hammett, Ph.D., a biologist and biochemist, he begins a research program at the hospital to study the fundamental processes involved in cancer. From the start, Reimann leads with a then-novel belief that the key to understanding cancer lies in the study of normal cell growth and development. Cancer research up until that time had focused solely on studies of tumor tissues.
  • 1945: The Institute for Cancer Research is formally incorporated.
  • 1946: With a staff now numbering 46, the Institute has outgrown its Lankenau Hospital home. The Society of Friends, trustees of Jeanes Hospital, offers land in Fox Chase. Of the Institute's 10 laboratory heads, four are women.
  • 1947: On June 5, ground is broken for the Institute for Cancer Research's new home in Fox Chase.  The 50- by 283-foot facility, built with funds from the Pew Memorial Foundation, provides space for "about 100 research workers divided into working groups in various fields all headed toward a reasonable solution of the cancer problem," wrote architect Vincent G. Kling in the ceremony's program. The building was named for Stanley Reimann in the early 1990s.
  • 1957: A new era of progress, growth, and stability begins at the Institute with the appointment of Timothy R. Talbot Jr., MD, as scientific director. Over the next 20 years, he champions the move of American Oncologic Hospital to the Institute's campus and, with Hospital board chairman G. Morris Dorrance Jr., Hospital president Edward J. Roach, and Institute board chairman G. Willing Pepper, leads the subsequent formation of Fox Chase Cancer Center, becoming its first president.
  • 1959: David A. Hungerford, a graduate student at Fox Chase, and Peter C. Nowell, MD, a pathologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, detect an abnormality on chromosome 22 in cells taken from patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). The discovery provides the first conclusive evidence that cancer is a genetic disorder of somatic cells. This chromosomal abnormality would become known as the Philadelphia chromosome. The 1960 publication of their research marked the first scientific discovery to lead to a targeted therapy for cancer. Today, many patients with CML live for years on imatinib (marketed as Gleevec™), a drug therapy that targets the cancer-causing protein produced by the Philadelphia chromosome. Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, PhD, and his laboratory team identify the long-sought hepatitis B virus—a major cause of primary liver cancer, the fifth most common cancer worldwide. Two years later, with Irving Millman, PhD, he invents the first hepatitis B vaccine—the first vaccine capable of preventing a human cancer. Blumberg would go on to receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1976.
  • 1967: After 57 years in West Philadelphia, American Oncologic Hospital opens in Fox Chase.
  • 1974: Two years after the National Cancer Act begins the "war on cancer," American Oncologic Hospital and the Institute for Cancer Research unite to form Fox Chase Cancer Center. Later that year, Fox Chase becomes one of the first institutions to receive the National Cancer Institute's elite designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center.
  • Fox Chase's Irwin A. Rose, PhD, and collaborators Avram Hershko, MD, PhD, and Aaron Ciechanover, PhD, discover one of the cell's most important cyclical processes: how proteins are broken down and recycled. Their discoveries establish a new paradigm in biology and form the basis for Velcade, a drug approved for multiple myeloma. The three men would go on to receive the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2004.
  • 1991: Mary Daly, MD, PhD, establishes Fox Chase's first family risk-assessment program, with seed funds from the Margaret Dyson Foundation. Among the first of its kind in the country, the program serves women with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer, offering genetic testing and counseling, screening and follow-up, and the opportunity to take part in prevention studies. he program provided a model for Fox Chase to establish similar risk-assessment programs for gastrointestinal cancers, prostate cancer, and melanoma.
  • 1992: The National Institutes of Health names Fox Chase one of four institutions chosen to analyze all genetic data for the Human Genome Project.
  • 1995: Fox Chase becomes one of the founding members of the National Comprehensive Cancer Center Network, an alliance of the nation's leading academic cancer centers designed to ensure the highest-quality, most cost-effective cancer care based on state-of-the-art treatment guidelines and outcomes research.
  • 2000: Fox Chase becomes the first U.S. cancer center and the first hospital in Pennsylvania to earn the American Nurses Association Magnet Award for Nursing Excellence. Renewed in 2004 and 2008, Magnet status certifies that Fox Chase meets the gold standard in nursing.  Fox Chase is one of only 37 organizations in the world that has earned the designation three times in a row.
  • 2001: Fox Chase becomes the first cancer center in the world to use magnetic resonance imaging(MRI) to design more precise radiation treatment plans for cancer patients, setting a new standard for therapy.
  • 2009: Fox Chase opens the region's first comprehensive Women's Cancer Center.
  • 2012: Fox Chase Cancer Center becomes part of Temple University Health System, July 1, 2012.
  • 2013: Richard I. Fisher, MD, named president and CEO of Fox Chase Cancer Center, July 29, 2013.

A Century of Excellence

Fox Chase Cancer Center recently marked the centennial of its hospital. Then called American Oncologic Hospital, it was chartered in November 1904 as one of the nation's first cancer hospitals, Since its modest start in a West Philadelphia Victorian home, the institution has remained a national leader in cancer care.

The hospital was built on the vision and optimism of 13 business and professional men, including a number of physicians, who were concerned about rising cancer rates in Philadelphia. At that time, cancer was widely considered incurable. 

Fox Chase Cancer Center was formed in 1974 by the union of American Oncologic Hospital and the Institute for Cancer Research (founded in 1927).

Today, the 100-bed Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center remains one of the few facilities in the country devoted entirely to cancer care. It is nationally recognized for its leadership in medical, radiation and surgical oncology.

Fox Chase became part of Temple Health in July, 2012, continuing its focus on cancer.

Discoveries in Cancer Research

During this time, many discoveries in cancer research were made by Fox Chase scientists, including the hepatitis B vaccine, developed in the laboratory of Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, PhD. Dr. Blumberg is accompanied by Fox Chase scientist Irwin A. "Ernie" Rose, PhD. as a laureate of the prestigious Nobel prize. The advances made by Fox Chase doctors have contributed to the availability of improved cancer treatments, not only at Fox Chase, but around the globe. 
Read more about our Awards and Honors »

Research Institute for Cancer Prevention

To reach its ultimate goal in cancer care is prevention, Fox Chase opened the Research Institute for Cancer Prevention in 2000, the first comprehensive program of its kind in the nation. Housed in the new Prevention Pavilion on the Fox Chase campus, it features laboratories devoted solely to prevention-oriented research.


Selected photographs from the Fox Chase Cancer Center archives.