Rauscher went to work for NCI in 1959 in the Laboratory of Viral Oncology, where he discovered a mouse leukemia virus whose properties made laboratory studies in mice and rats faster and easier. The Rauscher leukemia virus still is widely used in research.
In 1964 he was appointed head of the Special Virus Cancer Program, and in 1967 became associate director for viral oncology. The viral oncology program eventually led to discoveries that form the basis of modern molecular genetics. From 1969 to 1972 he headed what is now the Div. of Cancer Etiology.
After the National Cancer Act became law in December 1971, providing NCI with special authorities above that of the other institutes in NIH, cancer program advocates felt the new effort should begin with a new leader.
Benno Schmidt, chairman of the President’s Cancer Panel, created by the Act, submitted Rauscher’s name to President Richard Nixon, who appointed Rauscher director of NCI on May 5, 1972.
Resigned For Financial Reasons
Rauscher was a respected administrator and effective advocate for the National Cancer Program. He charted the rapid expansion in the early years of the cancer program as NCI’s budget climbed from $400 million to more than $800 million when he resigned in 1976.
He expanded programs in viral oncology and chemotherapy, as well as what he called “people programs” in cancer prevention and control and research training.
He made several important appointments, including Alan Rabson as director of the Div. of Cancer Biology, Diagnosis & Centers, Vincent DeVita as director of the Div. of Cancer Treatment, and Paul Van Nevel as director of the office of Cancer Communications.
One of his administrative accomplishments was consolidating treatment activities in the Div. of Cancer Treatment by moving the cooperative groups, the Surgery and Radiation Therapy branches, and the NCI clinical director’s position into the division.
“His major problem as NCI director was spending money fast enough,” Rabson said.
However, Rauscher’s own salary was capped at $37,800, since he was not a PHS commissioned officer and could not receive military pay bonuses. He was one of the lowest paid NCI executives.
With three children in college and two more to follow, Rauscher said he could no longer afford to work at the institute.
He resigned as NCI director on Nov. 1, 1976 after Congress failed to act on legislation to increase his salary and those of the other NIH institute directors. Rauscher accepted the job of senior vice president for research at the American Cancer Society at twice his government salary, directing the Society’s $30 million research budget (The Cancer Letter, Sept. 24, 1976).
At ACS, Rauscher developed innovative grant programs that the Society continues to use. He devised a program for rapid funding of hot new research ideas, the Research Development Program, which provides pilot funding to investigators within three months of acceptance.
‘A Unique Scientific Administrator’
He also developed the Special Institutional Grants for cancer cause and prevention, which provided $1 million over five years to institutions to hire faculty and attract students to develop the field of carcinogenesis.
“We don’t use it any more for training people in carcinogenesis because it worked,” Rauscher’s successor, John Laszlo, said to The Cancer Letter. The grants now are used to develop the fields of nutrition and cancer, and psychosocial and behavioral research.
It was through Rauscher’s leadership that ACS volunteers raised $2 million to bring interferon to the U.S. for testing in clinical trials.
“I saw him as a unique scientific administrator,” Laszlo said. “He was never formally trained to be an administrator; he was a scientist first and an administrator second.
“He was so gifted in being able to articulate difficult scientific concepts into lay terms,” Laszlo said. In his travels for ACS, Laszlo said he often meets people who say they were moved by Rauscher’s explanations of science.
“He saw science as a tool to help people, and in that way he was a very idealistic man,” Laszlo said. Since 1988, Rauscher had been executive director of the Thermal Insulation Manufacturers’ Assn. in Stamford, CT, where he directed research on noncarcinogenic thermal insulation materials to replace asbestos.
Rauscher was a native of Hellertown, PA, and graduated from Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. He received a doctorate in virology from Rutgers Univ.
In 1968, Rauscher received the Arthur S. Flemming Award for outstanding federal executives for his research linking cancer to viruses.
Survivors include his wife, Margaret; three sons, David, of Westport, CT, Frank III, of Princeton, NJ, and Michael, of Ridgefield, CT; two daughters, Mary and Megan, both of Westport; his father, Frank Sr., a brother, Kenneth, and a sister, Lois Grigoruk, all of Hellertown ; and two grandchildren.