1920, the oldest photo of the Executive Board of the Netherlands Cancer Institute held in the archive of the institute. Of the original founders, Rotgans, Vissering, Bangert, Rehbock and Pekelharing are still present.
The immediate cause for the founding of the Netherlands Cancer Institute is the sad death of a young woman. On 11 September 1913, the daughter of the Amsterdam printer and publisher J.H. de Bussy, dies of cancer. He is deeply affected by his daughter's death and approaches Professor W.M. de Vries, pathologist in the University of Amsterdam with the proposal to set up a cancer institute in The Netherlands as advocated by professor Rotgans. De Bussy and De Vries, together with Rotgans form a committee. Circumstances are favourable, the Dutch economy is flourishing and there prevails an optimistic mood among the wealthy bourgeoisie. It is a period in which many aspects of life are changing through a stream of technical and scientific innovations.
On 10 October 1913, the Netherlands Cancer institute (NKI) is founded. The secretariat is temporarily housed in the offices of the De Bussy Company at Rokin 62 in Amsterdam. The Cancer Institute will be established independently of the University Clinic in Amsterdam and will need to be literally built from the ground up. The setting up of regional committees in The Netherlands, to collect funds and create support, takes quite a while. Negotiations with the government are undertaken to secure funding. Temporary accommodation for the hospital and laboratory are found in the former Rotterdam Banking Association building at Keizersgracht 706. This comprehensive cancer institute is named "Antoni van Leeuwenhoekhuis".
In 1914, during preparations for the opening, the First World War breaks out. The economic situation worsens and the government withdraws the subsidies already promised as well as the promised donation of 100 mg of radium. The opening is postponed until 1915. The finances are in danger and the existing funds allow only the engagement of one physician. Founder, De Bussy, is able to find a further source of funds and with this, a surgeon, Dr. J.H. Kuijjer, can also be engaged, next to radiologist Gaarenstroom. His salary of 3000 Dutch guilders per year is guaranteed for three years. For the time being, Professors Rotgans and De Vries waive their salaries as directors of the Netherlands Cancer Institute.
As the intended researchers are called up for military service on the outbreak of war, their place in the laboratory is taken by the young student Willem Wassink. This marks the start of Wassink's long career in the service of the NKI as researcher, surgeon and head of clinic. He specialises in surgery and follows Dr. Kuijjer as head of clinic in 1921. He retires in 1958.