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Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD

Ensign Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology) and Professor of Pharmacology; Deputy Director, Yale Cancer Center; Chief of Medical Oncology, Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital; Assistant Dean for Translational Research, Yale School of Medicine; Director, Center for Thoracic Cancers, Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital; Program Director, Master of Health Science - Clinical Investigation Track (MHS-CI)

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Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD

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Dr. Herbst is nationally recognized for his leadership and expertise in lung cancer treatment and research. He is best known for his work in developmental therapeutics and the personalized therapy of non-small cell lung cancer, in particular the process of linking genetic abnormalities of cancer cells to novel therapies.

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Dr. Herbst’s primary mission is the enhanced integration of clinical, laboratory, and research programs. He has worked over several decades as a pioneer of personalized medicine and immunotherapy to identify biomarkers and bring novel targeted treatments and immunotherapies to patients, serving as principal investigator for numerous clinical trials testing these agents in advanced stage lung cancers. This work led to the approval of several therapies (such as gefitinib, cetuximab, bevacizumab, axitinib), which have revolutionized the field and greatly enhanced patient survival. He and his Yale colleagues were among the first to describe the PD-1/PD-L1 adaptive immune response in early phase trials and to offer trials of PD-L1 inhibitors atezolizumab and pembrolizumab to lung cancer patients. His leadership in targeted therapeutics resulted in being selected for ASCO’s plenary presentation in 2020 and 2023 and publication of results of the third-generation EGFR-inhibitor osimertinib for the treatment of resected EGFR-mutant NSCLC in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In 2015 and again in 2020, his team at Yale was awarded a Lung Cancer SPORE (P50 grant) by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which has identified new immunotherapies and mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance to EGFR targeted therapies. His work has also been funded by ASCO, AACR, the United States Department of Defense, and by an AACR/ Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team grant.

His work on "umbrella” trials has galvanized the field of targeted therapy and cancer drug approvals at the FDA. Nationally, he works closely with public-private partnerships to develop large master protocol clinical studies. He was co-leader for the BATTLE-1 clinical trial program, co-leads the subsequent BATTLE-2 clinical trial program, and was the founding principal investigator (PI) of the Lung Master Protocol (Lung-MAP), a position he held for ten years. He testified on this before the House of Representatives 21st Century Cures committee and serves as a prominent figure in this area. He has served over ten years as a member of the National Academy of Medicine’s Cancer Policy Forum, for which he organized several meetings focused on policy issues in personalized medicine and tobacco control. He is now serving his second term on the National Academy of Medicine’s Cancer Policy Forum. He is currently the Vice Chair for the Southwestern Oncology Group (SWOG) Lung Committee and chair emeritus and special advisor for the Lung-MAP trial.

After earning a B.S. and M.S. degree from Yale University, Dr. Herbst earned his M.D. at Cornell University Medical College and his Ph.D. in molecular cell biology at The Rockefeller University in New York City, New York. His postgraduate training included an internship and residency in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. His clinical fellowships in medicine and hematology were completed at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, respectively. Subsequently, Dr. Herbst completed a M.S. degree in clinical translational research at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Prior to his appointment at Yale, Dr. Herbst was the Barnhart Distinguished Professor and Chief of the Section of Thoracic Medical Oncology in the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (UT-MDACC) in Houston, Texas. He also served as Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology and Co-Director of the Phase I Clinical Trials Program.

Dr. Herbst is a highly respected clinician­ scientist who has been a champion of translational medicine for decades, recently authoring a high-profile review of the 20-year progress in lung cancer. He has authored or co-authored more than 450 publications, including peer-reviewed journal articles, abstracts, and book chapters. His work has appeared in many prominent journals, such as the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Clinical Cancer Research, Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine. Work published in Nature was awarded the 2015 Herbert Pardes Clinical Research Excellence Award by the Clinical Research Forum. His abstracts have been presented at the annual meetings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the World Conference on Lung Cancer, the Society of Nuclear Medicine Conference, and the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer.

He is a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and a member of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), where serves as Chair of the AACR Scientific Policy and Government Affairs Committee. He has been a major proponent of efforts to promote tobacco control and regulation (including e-cigarettes), authoring multiple policy statements and leading frequent Capitol Hill briefings. In 2019, he was elected to the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) board of directors and the board of directors of the American Association of Cancer Research(AACR). He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and an elected member of the Association of American Physicians.

For his lifetime achievement in scientific contributions to thoracic cancer research, Dr. Herbst was awarded the 2016 Paul A. Bunn, Jr. Scientific Award by the IASLC at their 17th World Conference on Lung Cancer in Vienna, Austria. A team of Yale Cancer Center investigators led by Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, was awarded the 2018 Team Science Award from the Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS) for its pioneering work in advancing our understanding of Immunotherapy. In 2020, Dr. Herbst was awarded the AACR Distinguished Public Service Award for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Science Policy. Dr. Herbst is the recipient of the 2022 Giants of Cancer Care® award for Lung Cancer and was honored by Friends of Cancer Research in 2022 as one of their 25 scientific and advocacy leaders who, through their work and partnership, have been instrumental over the course of the last 25 years in making significant advancements for patients. Over the course of his career, Dr. Herbst has worked to bring novel therapies to the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, bringing us closer to curing this disease.

Education & Training

  • MMS
    Harvard University, Clinical Translational Research (1997)
  • Fellowship
    Brigham and Women`s Hospital (1997)
  • Fellowship
    Dana Farber Cancer Institute (1997)
  • Residency
    Brigham and Women`s Hospital (1994)
  • MD
    Cornell University Medical College (1991)
  • PhD
    Rockefeller University, Molecular Biology (1990)
  • BS
    Yale University, Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry (1984)
  • MS
    Yale University, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry (1984)

Honors & Recognition

AwardAwarding OrganizationDate
Giants of Cancer Care Award for Lung CancerOncLive2022
Friends of Cancer Research 25th Anniversary HonoreeFriends of Cancer Research2022
ChairAmerican Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Scientific Policy and Government Affairs Committee (SPGAC)2022
AACR Distinguished Public Service Award for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Science PolicyAmerican Association for Cancer Research (AACR)2020
Asclepios Award honoring research pioneers in the fight to end lung cancerGO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer2019
Translational Team Science AwardAssociation for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS)2019
Paul A Bunn, Jr. MD Award for Lifetime AchievementInternational Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC)2016
Elected to the Association of American PhysiciansAAP2015
Waun Ki Hong Visiting Professor of Cancer MedicineMDACC Division of Cancer Medicine2014
Honorary Professor, University College London Cancer CenterUniversity College London2012

Professional Service

American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)Member, Board of Directors2020 - Present
International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC)Member, Board of Directors2019 - Present
National Cancer InstituteThoracic Malignancy Steering Committee - National Cancer Institute2012 - Present

Departments & Organizations