1990's

1990-1997

Roswell Park is among the first three cancer centers approved by the National Cancer Advisory Board for status as a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center under a new peer review system and guidelines established in 1990. Roswell Park, Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and Yale University Comprehensive Cancer Center were recommended for this designation.

In 1991, a human tissue repository for Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunologic Research – the only one of its kind in eastern United States – was dedicated at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The Center, made possible by a gift from the Baird Foundation, is dedicated to the late William C. Baird, a Buffalo industrialist and philanthropist.

In 1991, Institute dermatologists begin using photopheresis to treat cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL), an extremely debilitating and potentially fatal malignancy of the white blood cells. Roswell Park was one of the few facilities to offer this safe, effective procedure, which now has the seal of approval from the USFDA as the standard form of therapy for the advanced form of CTCL.

Dr. Hector Nava, of the Division of Surgery, is the first clinician to publish work demonstrating the importance of total colonoscopy in patients with colorectal cancer.

The Department of Radiation Therapy initiates the first programs in radiosurgery and high-dose brachtherapy in Western New York.

Roswell Park's Department of Neurology is commissioned by the Upstate New York Transplant Services (UNYTS) to perform a highly sensitive, rapid test for the presence of HIV, the AIDS virus, on all potential tissue and organ donors. The addition of this test – called polymerase chain reaction – makes UNYTS the first such service in New York State to implement such a protocol.

In 1992, The Major Modernization of Roswell Park becomes the largest health-related project approved by New York State and was the only health-related project approved for the State's fiscal year. Governor Mario Cuomo's promise to rebuild the campus through a bond authorization for $303 million became a reality in March, when both the Assembly and Senate voted on the same day to approve the measure.

The New York State legislation, creates the Physician Practice Plan which allows Roswell Park Cancer Institute physicians – for the first time – to charge for services in the same way as physicians in private practice.

In 1993, Roswell's Bone Marrow Transplant Unit is certified by the National Marrow Donor Program as both a Transplant and Collection center. Roswell Park now gains access to more than one million potential donors in the National Registry, and is now able to serve as a regional referral center for harvesting the blood and marrow of donors. Patients who are in need of blood and marrow transplants, but who do not have compatible, related donors, no longer have to leave Western New York for treatment.

In 1994, DNA samples from families registered in the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Registry are used for research on the BRCA1 gene – the gene which has been linked to familial breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Roswell Park hosts its first Cancer Survivor Day Gala Event "The Celebration of Your Life," on October 13, 1994. Over 600 current and former patients attend the event.

In 1995, the United States Food and Drug Administration approves the drug Photofrin – developed by Dr. Thomas Dougherty of Roswell Park – as a palliative treatment for patients with obstructing esophageal cancers. This is the first photodynamic therapy drug to be FDA-approved in the United States. In 1998, the FDA approves the drug as a treatment for early-stage lung cancer.

In 1996, The Center for HIV-Related Malignancies is designated an "AIDS Treatment Center" by the New York State Health Department, making it the first such center in the State to exclusively treat AIDS-related cancers. The designation was conferred after a rigorous application process spanning almost two years.

In 1997, representing an extraordinary collaborative effort of Roswell Park, the Department of Health, the Governor's Office of Employee Relations, union leadership and the Western New York Delegation, new legislation is passed which provides for a public health and research corporation to run Roswell Park (while maintaining civil service protections for its employees).

1998

In February, the Regional Cancer Center Consortium for Biological Therapy of Cancer holds its first meeting at RPCI, to present new basic science and clinical research information related to tumor immunology and the use of biological therapies in the treatment of cancer patients.

In April, Researchers from RPCI are part of an international group studying the long-term health effects caused by the destruction of the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, April 26, 1986, which exposed thousands to radiation and contaminated farmlands in the Ukraine and Belarus.

RPCI installs the Xillix LIFE-Laser Induced Fluorescence Endoscopy System to enable physicians to detect premalignant and intraepithelial (preinvasive) neoplastic lesions in the lung and initiate appropriate curative treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or in many cases, photodynamic therapy.

New York State Governor George E. Pataki dedicates the new Diagnostic and Treatment Center and 133-Bed Inpatient Tower, centerpiece of the $241.5 million RPCI’s Major Modernization Project, the largest health-related project ever undertaken by New York State. On June 15, the Center opens; and on June 22, the ribbon is cut celebrating the completion of the walkway linking RPCI to its neighbor Buffalo General Hospital.

RPCI Announces acquisition of the Leksell Gamma Knife, a new high tech tool which allows previously inoperable or inaccessible brain tumors and vascular malformations to be treated quickly and effectively, without ever opening the skull. RPCI is one of 47 facilities in North America to offer this non-invasive brain radiosurgery.

Sponsored by the National Coalition for Cancer Research, THE MARCH takes place on the Mall, in Washington D.C. In September, RPCI takes 150 cancer patients, staff and supporters to THE MARCH, a nationwide grassroots campaign to promote universal access to quality cancer care and increase funding for cancer research.

For the first time in its 100-year history, RPCI hosts The President's Cancer Panel on October 6.

RPCI's Blood Bank receives a perfect score following an inspection by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). According to the inspector, the perfect score was the first he had given in 18 years of blood bank inspection. In addition, the AABB asked permission to publish the RPCI program to use as an exemplary model for other hospitals to implement.

1999

In January 1999, Roswell Park Cancer Institute becomes a public benefit corporation, a distinction that confers the double benefit of administrative autonomy and substantial financial support from New York State.

In April, Researchers from RPCI are part of an international group studying the long-term health effects caused by the destruction of the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, April 26, 1986, which exposed thousands to radiation and contaminated farmlands in the Ukraine and Belarus.

RPCI and the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, begin the first human studies to test the safety and immunogenicity of the world’s first potential oral vaccine against the hepatitis B virus. The vaccine was delivered by simply eating potatoes genetically designed to contain the vaccine.

New research led by Gary A. Giovino, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention, Epidemiology and Biostatistics found that children who are exposed to adverse experiences, such as abuse, domestic violence and household dysfunction, are more likely to start smoking earlier and become heavier smokers as adults.