History

Director: Kenneth H. Cowan, M.D., Ph.D.

The original Eppley Institute was built in 1960 in the College of Medicine with funds from the Eugene C. Eppley Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the University of Nebraska. Dr. Henry M. Lemon was recruited as the first director and he reported to the Dean of the College of Medicine.

The purpose of the Institute, dedicated in 1963, was to provide a research center that could perform and encourage fundamental studies leading to:

  • A better understanding of the causes of cancer.
  • The improvement of methods for diagnosis of cancer.
  • The improvement of methods for the treatment and prevention of cancer and similar disorders.

In 1968, Dr. Philippe Shubik became Institute Director, and his research group moved to UNMC from the Chicago Medical School. This group's research focused on the study of chemical carcinogenesis, using both experimental pathological and biochemical methods. Subsequently, the program combined research into mechanisms of carcinogenesis with research to define carcinogens important in human disease.

At that time the Eppley Foundation, in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute and UNMC, funded the construction of the Eppley Hall of Science, which added 30,000 square feet of research space to the Institute. This addition opened in 1973.

In 1972, by action of the Nebraska Legislature, the Eppley Institute became an independent research institute with the director reporting to the Chancellor of UNMC, rather than to the Dean of the College of Medicine.

In 1979, Dr. Norman H. Cromwell of the Department of Chemistry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, became acting director of the Institute. Dr. Cromwell was instrumental in convincing the Nebraska Legislature about the merits of an increased cigarette tax to fund cancer research, which led to passage of LB506 in 1981. This bill provides investigator-initiated, RO1-type grant support. This grant mechanism is now considered to be peer-reviewed support for NCI center grant reviews because the grant proposals are rigorously reviewed by a study section of experts from outside the state.

In 1983 Dr. Cromwell returned to full-time teaching in Lincoln, and Dr. Edward Bresnick was appointed Director of the Institute. During Dr. Bresnick's tenure, the Eppley Institute was awarded a Laboratory Cancer Center Support Grant from the NCI in 1983, which was renewed for five years in 1987. The award of this grant designated the Eppley Institute as a Laboratory Cancer Research Center. Under the leadership of Dr. Bresnick, the faculty was expanded to include cell and molecular biologists.

In 1988 the American Cancer Society awarded the Eppley Institute a Special Institutional Grant in Cancer Cause and Prevention. This award is one of only seven such awards in the nation, and one that recognizes the achievements of the investigators at the Eppley Institute in this field. In addition, the Institute was awarded an ACS Institutional Research Grant to support cancer-related pilot projects of young investigators at UNMC. An NCI Pre- and Postdoctoral Training Grant was received in 1988.

In July 1989, Dr. Bresnick left to join the faculty at Dartmouth Medical School. In October 1989, Dr. Raymond W. Ruddon, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology, and Associate Director for Basic Research of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Michigan, was named the new Director at the Eppley Institute and was on site full-time by July 1990. Under Dr. Ruddon's leadership, the NCI Laboratory Cancer Research Center grant was renewed in 1991 and again in 1995. The ACS Special Institutional Grant was renewed in 1993.

In August 1999, Dr. Kenneth H. Cowan became the director of the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases and the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (formerly the Eppley Cancer Center). Since completing his residency training at Texas Southwestern Affiliated Hospitals in Dallas, Dr. Cowan spent his entire career at the NCI before coming to UNMC. From 1988 to 1999, he was chief of the Medical Breast Cancer Section, Medicine Branch, and was a captain in the Public Health Service, which includes physicians in the National Institutes of Health.

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