Yale Cancer Center (YCC) was founded in 1974 as a result of an act of Congress in 1971, which declared the nation's "war on cancer." It is one of a select network of 47 Comprehensive Cancer Centers throughout the country designated by the National Cancer Institute. The Cancer Center brings together the resources of Yale Medicine (YM), Smilow Cancer Hospital, and Yale University.

In the history of cancer treatment, Yale is perhaps best known as the institution where cancer chemotherapy and the entire field of cancer drug development was discovered and the very first cancer drug was administered in 1942. However, that was only one milestone in a long and rich legacy in cancer research. In the early 1900s, Dr. Ross Harrison developed the first methods for growing tumor cells in flasks on nutrient media. This development signaled an important advancement and led to considerable progress in understanding how tumors develop and grow. In 1921, Dr. Francesc Duran i Reynals succeeded in producing different types of sarcomas in animal model studies by overcoming the species barriers of certain oncogenic viruses. Dr. William Gardner's studies on steroid hormones and their role in experimental carcinogenesis added another dimension to our understanding of malignant disease. The first FDA approved selective immunotherapy treatment for any type of cancer, Transimmunization, was also developed at Yale under the direction of Dr. Richard Edelson.

Today, Yale Cancer Center scientists make many important contributions in basic science, in addition to focusing on translational research, an approach through which laboratory discoveries are quickly and efficiently integrated with clinical patient care. Yale Cancer Center emphasizes the molecular origins of cancer, stressing targeted treatments that are more specific to a particular cancer and less debilitating to patients. The Center's shared resource infrastructure ensures that the scientists have access to an array of highly sophisticated technologies that are crucial to developing innovative treatments that can be directly translated into clinical care.

At Yale Cancer Center, we are committed to caring for patients in a warm and compassionate environment at Smilow Cancer Hospital. Our experts work as a team to plan and track every aspect of our patients' care and treatment. The specialists involved in the care of each individual patient form a team, including medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, oncology nurses, social workers, nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, and clergy.

Timeline of Cancer Developments at Yale

1942Chemotherapy (nitrogen mustard) was used for cancer care for the very first time at Yale-New Haven Hospital (then New Haven Hospital).
1953Yale established the first pharmacology department in the United States to focus on cancer chemotherapy and cancer drug development.

Yale researchers investigated the mechanism of action of Cytarabine, which can cause a decrease in the number of blood cells in bone marrow.

1960sYale researchers investigated the mechanism of action of 6-Thiopurines and discovered resistance in leukemia.
1960sThe antifolate analog methotrexate was developed at Yale.

Yale-New Haven Hospital (then Grace-New Haven) installed the first linear accelerator in Connecticut for cancer treatment.


Yale established the first university-based department of clinical pharmacology and chemotherapy in the United States (the forerunner to medical oncology).


Yale Cancer Center was designated as one of the country’s inaugural
comprehensive cancer centers by the National Cancer Institute.


The National Cancer Institute established a Cancer Information Service office at Yale Cancer Center to serve as a resource for cancer information throughout the region.


Yale Cancer Center oncologists performed the first bone marrow transplant in Connecticut at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

1998Yale Cancer Center immunologist, Dr. Charles Janeway, establishes and proves his theory of innate immunity.
1998Yale Cancer Center researchers discover the gene, Survivin, which is linked to the detection of some cancers.
18 Phase I clinical studies are initiated at Yale Cancer Center to test the efficacy of new cancer therapies.

Researchers at Yale Cancer Center discover the E6 and E7 gene in HPV and link the cancer cell growth in the virus to the development of cervical cancer.


Digital diagnostic technology is developed with the creation of AQUA
(Automated Quantitative Analysis) at Yale Cancer Center to analyze microarray
specimens in cancer research.

2003Yale Cancer Center partners with the National Cancer Institute to create the first cooperative training program in cancer epidemiology in the nation.
15 Phase I clinical studies are initiated at Yale Cancer Center.
2006Yale-New Haven Hospital breaks ground for the new cancer hospital, scheduled to open in 2009.
2006Yale Cancer Center is awarded a SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) grant for translational research in skin cancer from the National Cancer Institute.
2006The Connecticut Challenge Survivorship Clinic is established at Yale Cancer Center providing the first specialized resource for survivors of adult cancers in Connecticut.
2007Yale Cancer Center’s designation as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute is renewed for an additional five years.
2009Dr. Thomas Lynch, Jr. appointed director of Yale Cancer Center and Physician in Chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven.

Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven opens for patient care.

2012Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center open 8 Smilow Cancer Care Centers in Connecticut.

Yale Cancer Center's designation as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute is renewed for an additional five years. 

2015Smilow Cancer Hospital celebrates five years since opening its doors and Yale Cancer Center celebrates 40 years of research.
2015Yale Cancer Center is awarded a SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) grant for translational research in lung cancer from the NCI.
2015Peter Schulam, MD, PhD, was appointed Interim Director of Yale Cancer Center and Physician-in-Chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital.