About Us: History & Overview

Memorial Sloan Kettering Today
  • 469 inpatient beds
  • 72,000-square-foot surgical center
  • State-of-the-art treatment hub for outpatient procedures

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was founded in 1884 as New York Cancer Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper West Side by a group that included John J. Astor and his wife, Charlotte. In 1899, the name was changed to General Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases. In 1916, the word “General” was dropped and the new name became Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases.

In 1936, the hospital began a move to our present location on York Avenue, on land donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and the new Memorial Hospital opened in 1939. The building, which was reconstructed between 1970 and 1973, stands on the site today.

In the 1940s, two former General Motors executives, Alfred P. Sloan and Charles F. Kettering, joined forces to establish the Sloan Kettering Institute (SKI), which has since become one of the nation's leading biomedical research institutions. Built adjacent to Memorial Hospital, SKI was formally dedicated in 1948.

In 1960, a new corporate entity — Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center — was formed to coordinate and guide the overall policy for Memorial Hospital and the Sloan Kettering Institute, and in 1980 these entities were unified into a single institution, with a single president and CEO.

Over the years, we have continued to expand our outpatient facilities and services to meet the growing needs of our patients, physicians, and researchers.

Learn more about Memorial Sloan Kettering's history in our historical timeline.

Patient Care

Patient Care in 2012
  • 876 attending physicians
  • 2,133 nurses
  • 138,338 patients seen
  • 24,598 inpatient stays
  • 541,474 outpatient visits

According to US News & World Report, Memorial Sloan Kettering was ranked as one of the best hospitals for cancer care in the country and among the nation’s top pediatric hospitals for cancer care in 2013–2014. In addition, the 2013 Best Doctors issue of New York magazine recognizes more cancer physicians from Memorial Sloan Kettering than from any other hospital in the New York metropolitan area.

Patient care is a team effort at Memorial Sloan Kettering, where more than a dozen multidisciplinary cancer care teams combine the expertise and experience of numerous specialists to ensure the best possible treatment. Patients are treated by as many different experts as are needed for their particular type of disease, including surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, psychiatrists, and nurses.

Our physicians have an extraordinary depth and breadth of experience in diagnosing and treating all forms of the disease, from the most common to the rarest. Each year, they treat more than 400 different subtypes of cancer. This level of specialization can have an often dramatic effect on a patient's chances for a cure or control of his or her cancer.

State-of-the-Art Diagnostics

Memorial Sloan Kettering’s radiologists use state-of-the-art imaging technology to detect cancer, and our pathologists have unsurpassed experience in using advanced methods to accurately diagnose cancer. They analyze some 40,000 tumor samples each year to determine a precise diagnosis and the extent of disease (known as staging) – an essential step to deciding the best course of treatment.

Surgical Expertise

Our surgeons perform more cancer operations at Memorial Sloan Kettering than doctors at any other hospital in the nation. Because of their sole focus on cancer, our surgeons can often use advanced surgical techniques that result in a better quality of life for patients. Over the years, they have pioneered many surgical innovations, including minimally invasive surgery for the treatment of many cancers.

Pioneering Radiation Therapy

Our radiation oncologists are developing and putting into clinical practice leading-edge technologies and techniques in radiation therapy. They pioneered intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which allows higher, more-effective doses of radiation to be delivered to tumors while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissues and organs.

More-Effective Chemotherapy

Memorial Sloan Kettering’s medical oncologists are leaders in developing new chemotherapy drugs that are safer and more effective than standard therapies. Increasingly, our medical oncologists employ sophisticated technologies, such as immunotherapies or vaccines, often in combination with chemotherapy, to more effectively treat cancer.

Excellence in Nursing

Our specially trained oncology nurses work closely with our physicians to provide compassionate patient-centered care, foster a safe and healing environment, and provide support and comfort to our patients and their loved ones. Our patients benefit from the extraordinary knowledge, experience, and expertise of our nurses – nearly 35 percent of who have chosen to continue their professional nursing careers at Memorial Sloan Kettering for at least 10 years.

Our nurses set standards and influence decisions concerning quality care, taking the lead with other quality experts in developing nationally recognized best practices to improve quality of care and patient outcomes.

In fact, we published the first comprehensive textbook on nursing oncology in 1986, establishing the original standards of care in the field and paving the way for specialized oncology training for nurses throughout the country.

Supportive Care

We offer a full range of programs to help patients and families throughout all phases of treatment, including genetic counseling, rehabilitation, integrative medicine, counseling, pain and palliative care, cancer screening, and assistance in navigating life after treatment.

Research

Leading Researchers
  • 149 senior laboratory investigators
  • 18 members of the Institute of Medicine
  • 12 members of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 9 Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators
  • 2 Lasker Award recipients
  • 1 National Medal of Science winner

Memorial Sloan Kettering researchers have led the way in developing new ways to diagnose and treat cancer. We maintain one of the world's most dynamic programs of cancer research, with more than 120 research laboratories that are focused on better understanding every type of the disease. Memorial Sloan Kettering is also home to more than 35 state-of-the-art core facilities, which provide our research community with the latest research technology and a wide range of expert services.

The extraordinary patient care we provide benefits from our innovative programs in basic, translational, and clinical research. In fact, between 1980 and 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration approved ten drugs developed in our labs for marketing — a success rate not matched by any other cancer center.

Research at the Sloan Kettering Institute (SKI) — Memorial Sloan Kettering’s basic research arm — is dedicated to understanding the biology of cancer through eight major research programs. Investigators at SKI collaborate with Memorial Hospital physician-scientists — a partnership that helps speed important research findings from the laboratory to the patient.

Memorial Hospital’s extensive research program includes areas that focus on basic laboratory research, translational research that bridges discoveries made in the laboratory and those made in the clinic, and mathematical and computational research directed at analyzing and interpreting biomedical data.

Memorial Sloan Kettering also conducts one of the largest clinical research programs in the world. Through these studies, physicians and scientists on our disease-focused research teams translate basic science findings into new treatment advances. In addition, Memorial Sloan Kettering actively initiates and participates in clinical trials to identify more-effective cancer therapies. As of December 2012, our physicians were leading more than 1,100 clinical research studies for pediatric and adult cancers.

Our researchers collaborate internally and externally to bring together laboratory investigators and clinicians from different disciplines to advance the current understanding of tumor biology and explore new ways to cure, control, and prevent disease.

Education and Training

Training the Next Generation in 2012
  • 1,682 residents and clinical fellows
  • 533 postdoctoral research fellows, research scholars, and research associates
  • 243 PhD and MD/PhD candidates
  • 178 nursing students
  • 431 medical students

Education is a vital part of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s mission. Our training programs prepare the next generation of physicians, scientists, and other healthcare professionals for leadership roles in the life sciences and medicine, especially as related to cancer.

Our educational collaborations with The Rockefeller University, Cornell University, and Weill Cornell Medical College offer PhD programs in chemical biology, computational biology and medicine, and the medical sciences. Memorial Sloan Kettering also partners with Weill Cornell Medical College and The Rockefeller University to offer an MD/PhD program for aspiring physician-scientists.

In 2004, we established a PhD program in cancer biology through the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. This novel program, which offers a PhD degree in cancer biology and enrolled its first class in 2006, trains gifted basic laboratory scientists to work in research areas directly relevant to cancer and other human diseases. The first graduates completed the program in 2012.

We also offer postgraduate clinical fellowships to train physicians who seek special expertise in a particular type of cancer, as well as postgraduate research fellowships that provide physicians and scientists with advanced laboratory research training. With faculty appointments at the Weill Cornell Medical College, our clinical staff members train residents and medical students as well.

Memorial Sloan Kettering provides an excellent environment in which nurses can learn from professionals who are highly specialized in cancer care and nursing education. We are committed to improving the quality of care for cancer patients through the professional development of nurses at Memorial Sloan Kettering. We value their efforts to achieve advanced degrees and national certifications in their specialty practices, keep pace with technological and scientific advances in oncology nursing, and play leadership roles in the ongoing development of the profession.

In addition, we offer a variety of educational and training programs for high school and college students who aspire to careers in medicine and science.