Message from the Chief

Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD

We are in the midst of an exciting and pivotal time in the history of medical oncology at Yale. Since the first chemotherapy was delivered here in 1941 (nitrogen mustard), Yale has been a leader in cancer pharmacology, developing innovative new drugs to meet the needs of patients with advanced cancer. During this time, we have seen dramatic improvements in cancer cure rates though most therapeutic advancements have simply added a few months to patient's lives. However, in the last decade the identification of mutations in cancer genes have ushered in a new area of targeted and more effective cancer care. At Yale, we are building upon these advances in cancer biology to translate this personalized cancer care to our patients while raising the bar to develop more innovative and effective treatments for cancer.

The section of medical oncology of the Department of Medicine as part of Yale Cancer Center is uniquely poised to make a significant impact on the nation's battle with cancer through innovations in biology, therapy, and comprehensive compassionate care. Here at Yale we are capitalizing on the opportunity offered by our scientific and clinical growth to fundamentally change the way we think about cancer. In October 2009, we opened the state-of-the-art Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, giving us for the first time a unified therapeutic facility for the care of cancer patients. The Cancer Biology Institute on Yale’s 136-acre West campus demonstrates our commitment to the expansion of our personnel and research facilities while sustaining the university's special interdisciplinary culture of scientific discovery. This campus additionally houses the Yale Center for Genome Analysis and the Yale Center for Molecular Discovery, which support our efforts to discover novel cancer targets and therapies through molecular analyses. We have recently added 18 experienced cancer physicians from our local community to our already robust faculty so we have both the research and clinical infrastructure to translate new technologies and treatments to our patients in the most compassionate and effective ways. We are using these tremendous resources to create new scientific and clinical synergies designed to move the cancer research paradigm beyond incremental advances to a more personalized and less toxic approach which will significantly prolong life and in some cases even offer a cure for many malignant diseases. We can further accomplish this by educating our medical students, residents and fellows to become the next generation of oncologists through our fellowship program.

We are committed to maintaining Yale’s status as one of the world's top centers for cancer research and patient care, through innovative programs at the cutting edge of science and clinical practice. For example, we have a facility to investigate a patient's cancer at the molecular level giving us key molecular data that our oncologists use to pursue the most promising treatments for our patients as early as possible in the course of their disease. Our innovative BATTLE clinical trial program for lung cancer uses molecular analysis of fresh tissue biopsies to help determine the best novel treatment in real time, and these results provide laboratory scientists the ability to explore and uncover potential resistance mechanisms in the clinic. In all of these ways, we are working together to translate the most relevant scientific discoveries to the clinic and the care of our patients.

Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD
Chief of Medical Oncology
Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology)
Associate Director for Translational Research
Ensign Professor of Medical Oncology