Our History

In 1932, the Cody Commission, an Ontario Royal Commission, recommended that 3 cancer clinics be established in Ontario in Toronto, Kingston and London. In 1934, an agreement was reached between the Division of Cancer Control of the Ontario Department of Health and Victoria Hospital to establish the London clinic. After some delays, The Ontario Institute of Radiotherapy (OIR), Victoria Hospital, officially opened at the South Street Campus on May 26th, 1941.

And so began the long and illustrious history of the present Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre at London Health Sciences Centre.

On October 27, 1951, the first treatment in the world with Cobalt-60 radiation took place at the OIR, Victoria Hospital with Dr. Ivan Smith as the attending physician. Developed by Dr. Smith in collaboration with Mr. Roy Errington from Eldorado Mining and Refining (1944) Ltd., the machine was known as the “Cobalt Bomb” or the “Peace Bomb”. Its technical name was the “Eldorado A”. This machine treated 16 new patients per month.

The Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation (OCTRF) was incorporated in 1943 by an Act of Legislation of the Province of Ontario, with a mandate to establish and conduct a program of diagnosis, treatment and research for cancer in Ontario. This included assuming the operation of the cancer clinics established across the province and on November 18th, 1954, the OIR became the London Clinic of the OCTRF. At the same time, the clinic relocated to new quarters, occupying 2 floors in the new east wing at Victoria Hospital’s South Street Campus. New radiation treatment equipment was added, making it the most modern clinic in Ontario.

In 1955, the original Cobalt source was replaced. Also in 1955, the first radioactive isotope laboratory was established and the first researcher, a radiobiologist, joined the London Clinic team. An addition to the clinic was completed in 1958, and in 1966, a new radiobiological research laboratory was added.

On January 2nd, 1962, the first cancer patient was welcomed at the newly opened Thameswood Lodge, which provided accommodation for patients in the region coming to London for treatment.

Over the next 25 years, the clinic continued to grow and the early treatment machines were retired and replaced with more modern technology. During the 1970’s, chemotherapy was introduced as a treatment modality, and a chemotherapy suite was added to the clinic. The suite originally housed 2 treatment chairs.

In 1975, temporary quarters were built to provide new professional library and research laboratory space, primarily for tissue culture research. The first cancer researcher was appointed at that time.

In 1984, the name of the clinic was changed to the London Regional Cancer Centre (LRCC) to reflect an increase in patient activity from outside of London across the region of Southwestern Ontario. By this time, the LRCC was seriously overcrowded and, in August 1985, the Ministry of Health approved the construction of a new Regional Cancer Centre on the Westminster Campus of Victoria Hospital.

May 13, 1988 was the beginning of a new phase in the history of cancer care in London as LRCC moved into its new state-of-the-art facility that housed the latest in treatment equipment, and provided new, expanded space for it’s growing research operations.

The new centre with its open atrium space, also focused on providing a sense of well-being for patients and families by including artwork by various London artists throughout the waiting and treatment areas. Local musicians add their unique performances to providing a soothing, comfortable atmosphere.

In April 1995, the OCTRF became Cancer Care Ontario and CCO Regional was established to more accurately reflect the growing regional focus of cancer care in Ontario. Southwestern Ontario became the regional component of LRCC. Since then, the Regional Cancer Program has continued to grow and evolve.  Community chemotherapy clinics are now available across the region, allowing patients to have access to the care they need closer to their home community and a regional accountability agreement has been signed by cancer care providers to forge the Regional Cancer Services Alliance.

Major expansion projects in 1998 and 2004 increased treatment capacity in both radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and added additional research space.

In July 2001, the last Cobalt radiation treatment unit at LRCC was removed. It was replaced by a Tomotherapy unit, the very latest in treatment technology. At that time, LRCC was one of only 2 cancer treatment centres in Canada to have this new technology. The unit has the capability to plan and provide treatment at the same time, treating in slices that are designed to “hit the tumour” and spare the surrounding healthy tissue.

In November 2002, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced that Cancer Care Ontario would transfer responsibility for direct management and delivery of patient care services to the hospitals as Integrated Cancer Programs. On January 1st, 2004, the Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre became the London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP) at London Health Sciences Centre.

Our research program has grown tremendously over the past 2 decades and Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre can boast of having a strong research team that continues to be a successful, dynamic group, recognized for excellence and innovation in the field of cancer research.

The Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre has a long, distinguished history in providing service to the people of London and Southwestern Ontario and has continued to focus on providing the best in cancer care for our patients. In 2006, 6,351 new cancer patients were referred to Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre. We offer the latest in radiation treatment technology and chemotherapy, in an environment of compassion and support for patients and their families.