About Us: Historical Timeline

Learn more about Memorial Sloan Kettering’s history in this timeline, beginning with its founding in 1884.

1800s

1884 – On May 31, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is founded as New York Cancer Hospital at 106th Street and Central Park West in Manhattan. New York Cancer Hospital is the first institution in the United States devoted exclusively to the treatment of cancer.

1887 – New York Cancer Hospital, a 70-bed facility, receives its first patients on December 7.

1893 –William B. Coley is appointed as an attending surgeon. One of the American pioneers in modern clinical research, Dr. Coley developed an early form of immunotherapy in which he treated sarcoma with the toxins of a bacterial skin infection to induce the body’s immune system to target and destroy tumors.

1899 – The original name of the hospital is changed from New York Cancer Hospital to General Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases.

1900-1924

1902 – Mrs. Collis P. Huntington gives $100,000 to General Memorial Hospital in memory of her husband to establish the first cancer research fund in the country, which gave a new impetus for treatment and research.

1902 – Just two years after the discovery of X-rays, Memorial Hospital pioneers their use in cancer therapy.

1912 – James Douglas, a scientist and philanthropist, gives $100,000 to General Memorial Hospital for the endowment of ten beds for clinical research work, and the equipment for an X-ray plant and clinical laboratory.

1913 – James Ewing is appointed as a pathologist at Memorial Hospital. Under his guidance and with his subsequent appointments as Director of Cancer Research and President of the Medical Board, Memorial Hospital attains worldwide recognition in the diagnosis and management of tumors and other lesions caused by the abnormal proliferation of cells in the body.

1915 – Dr. Ewing, working with Dr. Douglas, establishes a radium department and lays the foundation in the United States for radiation therapy.

1916 – The name of the hospital becomes Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases.

1919 – Dr. Ewing publishes the first edition of Neoplastic Diseases: A Text-Book on Tumors. The book, which is translated into numerous languages, becomes a cornerstone of modern oncology by establishing a systematic and comprehensive basis for diagnosing human cancer. 

1920 – Memorial Hospital establishes the first radiation research laboratory in the United States.

1921 — Marie Curie, the co-discoverer of radium who won Nobel Prizes in both physics and chemistry, visits Memorial Hospital during a tour of the United States. 

1925-1949

1927 – Memorial Hospital establishes the nation’s first fellowship training program. Within a decade, Memorial Hospital trains fellows who come from about 30 states and 20 countries.

1931 – The General Electric Company loans the hospital a 700,000-volt X-ray machine, and the hospital erects a building to accommodate the equipment.

1939 – Memorial Hospital moves from its original location to its current location on the Upper East Side, between 67th and 68th Streets and First and York Avenues, on land donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The new building includes the first and only ward in the world for children with cancer.

1939 – A one-million-volt x-ray machine, then the largest of its kind for treating cancer, is installed at Memorial Hospital.

1940 – Elise Strang L’Esperance, a pathologist at Memorial Hospital, along with her sister, May Strang, founds the Kate Depew Strang Cancer Prevention Clinic, which becomes a prototype for cancer detection clinics throughout the United States. The success of the clinic, originally housed within Memorial Hospital, leads to the construction of a separate building adjacent to the hospital in 1947.

1945 – Philanthropist and industrialist Alfred P. Sloan and inventor and industrialist Charles E. Kettering join forces to establish the Sloan Kettering Institute, which today is the basic research arm of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

1946 – Teams of investigators, including those from Memorial Hospital and Sloan Kettering Institute, report that the nitrogen mustards developed as chemical warfare agents can be used effectively against certain forms of cancer. The findings lead to the development of chemotherapy as a treatment for cancer.

1948 – Through a gift of $4,000,000 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the 13-story Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research opens. Devoted solely to the study of cancer, the structure is Sloan Kettering Institute’s first laboratory building and is the largest private cancer research facility in the world.

1950-1974

1950 – The Helena Woolworth McCann Children’s Pavilion, which more than doubles the bed capacity for children at Memorial Hospital, opens.

1952 – A new compound, called 6 MP, capable of inducing remissions in more than half of children suffering from acute leukemia, is developed at Memorial Sloan Kettering in collaboration with investigators from Wellcome Research Laboratories.

1954 – Memorial Hospital and Sloan Kettering Institute pioneer the application of computers to radiation treatment planning, and start the first computerized treatment plan program in the country.

1957 – A Sloan Kettering Institute researcher discovers a virus in mice that causes rapidly progressive leukemia, adding to the evidence that viruses cause some forms of cancer.

1959 – Research on immunotherapy accelerates when Sloan Kettering Institute scientists, using microbial products, successfully prevent and treat cancer in mice.

1960 – To more efficiently and effectively apply advances in the laboratory to the treatment of patients in the clinic, Memorial Hospital and the Sloan Kettering Institute incorporate to become Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

1964 – Sloan Kettering Institute’s research program and capabilities are significantly expanded with the dedication of the Kettering Laboratory, an 11-story building furnished with state-of-the-art equipment.

1967 – The computerized radiation therapy treatment planning service, pioneered in 1954 by Memorial Hospital and Sloan Kettering Institute, is extended with the inauguration of a coast-to-coast computer treatment planning program. Memorial Hospital begins using the first-of-its-kind system, and – by means of computers and teletype machines – treatment plans could be transmitted to other hospitals within 15 minutes.

1969 – Memorial Sloan Kettering opens the world’s first Pediatric Day Hospital to care for children and young adults with cancer on an outpatient basis, allowing them to return home on the day of treatment.

1971 – Surgical researchers devise a method for preserving the viability of donor livers for transplant, improving the portability of donor organs and leading to an increase in the number of potential donors.

1971 – Congress passes the National Cancer Act. With the Act’s implementation, Memorial Sloan Kettering is one of only three institutions in the country to be designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, charged with translating laboratory research results into clinical practice.

1973 – The new 19-story Memorial Hospital opens. It consists of single and double rooms, and enables the hospital to provide the highest quality care to all patients. The hospital is designed so that nearly each floor is a self-contained unit equipped to handle most patient-care needs.

1973 – Our physicians are involved in the first bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor to a patient. This opens the possibility of a transplant to the majority of patients who do not have a sibling who is a bone marrow match.

1975-1989

1976 – Memorial Sloan Kettering scientists develop a method for detecting tumor-specific antigens in some types of cancer – information that is essential for developing specific tumor vaccines.

1976 – The largest collection of human tumor cell lines in tissue culture is established at the Sloan Kettering Institute.

1977 – Memorial Sloan Kettering becomes the first cancer center to establish a full-time psychiatry service devoted solely to treating psychiatric and psychological problems unique to cancer patients, training young psychiatrists and psychologists in these issues, and conducting clinical research. Having pioneered the development of psychiatry in the oncology setting, the department serves as the first and largest national resource for training and research in psychiatric oncology.

1977 – The Arnold and Marie Schwartz International Hall of Science for Cancer Research, a research facility designed to enable investigators to focus on the cells and tissues of the human body, opens.

1979 – The Breast Examination Center of Harlem (BECH) is founded, establishing a reputation in the Harlem community for free, high-quality care. An outreach program of Memorial Sloan Kettering, BECH has screened more than 204,000 women for breast cancer.

1981 – The James T. Murray Pediatric Day Hospital opens, enlarging the Pediatric Day Hospital that opened in 1969 and providing expanded treatment and recreational facilities for young outpatients.

1982 – Memorial Sloan Kettering establishes the nation’s first Pain Service, dedicated to developing more-effective treatments for patients with pain that is acute, chronic, or difficult to manage.

1988 – Memorial Sloan Kettering's Post-Treatment Resource Program (as of 2011 called the Resources for Life After Cancer Program) is established, offering a broad range of support services for cancer survivors and their families including consultations, seminars, workshops, and professionally-led support groups. The program has served thousands of cancer survivors and is a model for cancer support programs at comprehensive cancer centers around the country.

 1989 – The Rockefeller Research Laboratories building opens in May. It currently houses a number of Sloan Kettering Institute research programs as well as some Memorial Hospital research laboratories. Located on the south side of 67th Street between First and York Avenues, the building is dedicated to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. – one of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s visionary supporters.

1990-1999

1991 – Memorial Sloan Kettering opens its new outpatient facility in October. Known as the Enid A. Haupt Pavilion, this location includes the Radiation Oncology Center, the Surgical Day Hospital, and Physician Office Suites.

1994 – Memorial Sloan Kettering researchers lead a study which finds that removing precancerous polyps in the colon can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by as much as 90 percent. The findings also confirm the cost-effectiveness of colorectal cancer screenings.

1995 – Memorial Sloan Kettering opens its first regional outpatient facility in October. Located on Phelps Memorial Hospital Center's 64-acre campus in Sleepy Hollow, New York, the facility offers a convenient location for patients to receive chemotherapy and minimizes the need for travel to Manhattan for treatment. Radiation oncology services became available there in 1997.

1996 – Memorial Sloan Kettering opens an outpatient cancer treatment program in June in Denville, New Jersey. The program was moved 10 years later when our new ambulatory center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey opened in 2006.

1997 Memorial Sloan Kettering Rockville Centre opens in November. The ambulatory facility offers chemotherapy and radiation treatment in a location that is convenient for residents of Nassau, western Suffolk, and Queens Counties in New York.

1997 – Memorial Sloan Kettering breast surgeons prove the value of sentinel node biopsy. This procedure allows many patients with breast cancer to avoid removal of most armpit lymph nodes, thereby reducing the risk of lymphedema (arm swelling) and speeding recovery after surgery.

1998 – Memorial Sloan Kettering opens an outpatient facility in Hauppauge, New York, in May, providing state-of-the-art skin cancer care in a location that is convenient for residents of Long Island, New York.

1999 – The Laurance S. Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion opens in April. Also known as Memorial Sloan Kettering 53rd Street, this location provides outpatient cancer care as well as innovative programs in women’s health and cancer prevention.

1999 The Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering is established, offering patients evidenced-based complementary interventions to optimize mainstream care before, during, and after treatment.

2000-2009

2002 – Memorial Sloan Kettering opens the Sidney Kimmel Center for Prostate and Urologic Cancers on March 1. The facility offers a comprehensive approach for the management of these types of cancers under one roof.

2002 – Memorial Sloan Kettering opens an outpatient center in Commack, New York, in June. This is Memorial Sloan Kettering’s first freestanding suburban outpatient treatment facility, offering a range of services including cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgical consultations, and cancer screening.

2003 – Memorial Sloan Kettering launches one of the country's first comprehensive programs for cancer survivors across all age groups that includes follow-up care, research, and education, and training. Designed to address long-term and late effects of cancer and treatment, our Cancer Survivorship Initiative has since become the largest program of its kind, and the model has been adopted by centers internationally.

2004 – Memorial Sloan Kettering refurbishes its pediatric space and opens the Claire Tow Pediatric Pavilion — a custom-designed, light-filled, and brightly colored environment that includes an outpatient Pediatric Day Hospital, inpatient units, a classroom, and a recreation center.

2006 – A new 72,000-square-foot surgical center opens in May. Each of the 21 state-of-the-art operating rooms are equipped for both minimally invasive surgery and traditional open surgery, and four of the rooms are specially designed to accommodate orthopedic and neurological procedures.

2006 – The Mortimer B. Zuckerman Research Center opens in September. The 23-story leading-edge research facility is erected on the site of the original Sloan Kettering Institute laboratory built in 1948 and houses many cancer research programs in some 300,000 square feet of laboratory space.

2006 – Memorial Sloan Kettering opens a suburban outpatient center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, in September. The state-of-the-art outpatient facility offers the same outstanding cancer care as Memorial Sloan Kettering's New York City facilities in a location that is convenient for residents of New Jersey.

2009 – The Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center and MSKCC Imaging Center open in September. This 16-story facility, located within walking distance of Memorial Hospital, offers the most-advanced, comprehensive services for breast cancer patients, all under one roof, while also expanding services for the screening and diagnosis of many other types of cancer.

2010-2013

2010 – Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Image-Guided Intervention opens in June, offering cancer patients the most advanced, minimally invasive diagnostic and treatment options in a unique multidisciplinary setting. The 40,000-square-foot facility houses an expanded Surgical Day Hospital and a new endoscopy suite.

2010 – Memorial Sloan Kettering greatly improves its capacity to help patients with cancer regain physical function and a sense of well-being with the opening of the Sillerman Center for Rehabilitation. The state-of-the-art facility provides services tailored to the special needs of people who are undergoing or have recently completed cancer treatment.

2012 – The first four students receive their PhD degrees in May from the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The mission of the school, which opened in 2006, is to advance the frontiers of scientific knowledge by educating creative and motivated students in an interactive, innovative, and collegial environment.

2012 – The second phase of construction on the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Research Center is completed in October. The seven-story, 147,000-square-foot addition to the phase 1 building that was completed in 2006 contains a conference center with a 350-seat auditorium, laboratories, and space for physicians’ academic offices.

A Look Ahead

2014 – Memorial Sloan Kettering will add to its network of suburban outpatient facilities with the construction of a new 114,000-square-foot site in Harrison, New York. The new location will allow Memorial Sloan Kettering to offer ambulatory cancer care closer to home for patients who reside in the Hudson Valley area. The facility is expected to be completed in 2015.

2015 – A generous commitment from The Robertson Foundation has made possible the creation of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Josie Robertson Surgery Center, a new 16-story, 179,000-square-foot building to be constructed on York Avenue between East 61st and East 62nd Streets. The facility, which will feature 12 operating rooms equipped to provide technologically sophisticated surgical care on an outpatient basis, is scheduled to be completed in 2015.