Timeline of cancer treatment development

This is a historical timeline of the development and progress of cancer treatments, which includes time of discovery, progress, and approval of the treatments.

Ancient Era

Cancer was traditionally treated with surgery, heat, or herbal (chemical) therapies.

  • 2600 BC   Egyptian physician Imhotep recommended producing a localised infection to promote regression of tumours. According to the Ebers medical papyrus, this was done by placing a poultice near the tumour, followed by local incision.[1]
  • BC   Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians used heat to treat masses. Healers in ancient India used regional and whole-body hyperthermia as treatments.[2]
  • 2 AD   Ancient Greeks describe surgical treatment of cancer.[3][4]

Modern Era


  • 1820s   British Dr. James Arnott, "the father of modern cryosurgery", starts to use cryotherapy to freeze tumours in the treatment of breast and uterine cancers[5]
  • 1880s   American Dr. William Stewart Halsted develops radical mastectomy for breast cancer[4]
  • 1890s   German Dr. Westermark used localized hyperthermia to produce tumour regression in patients
  • 1891   American Dr. William B. Coley, "the father of immunotherapy", starts to treat cancer patients by injecting them with streptococci, containing immunostimulatory CpG motifs[6][7]
  • 1896   French Dr. Victor Despeignes, "the father of radiation therapy", starts to use X-rays to treat cancer[8]
  • 1896   American Dr. Emil Grubbe starts to treat breast cancer patients with X-rays[4]
  • 1896 Sir George Thomas Beatson invented hormonal treatment of breast cancer by bilateral ovary removal in women with inoperable breast cancer.



See also


  1. Kucerova P, Cervinkova M (April 2016). "Spontaneous regression of tumour and the role of microbial infection--possibilities for cancer treatment". Anti-Cancer Drugs. 27 (4): 269–77. doi:10.1097/CAD.0000000000000337. PMC 4777220. PMID 26813865.
  2. Gian F. Baronzio (2006). "Introduction". Hyperthermia In Cancer Treatment: A Primer. Medical Intelligence Unit. Berlin: Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-33440-0.[page needed]
  3. "The History of Cancer".
  4. "History of cancer treatment". 2015-06-04.
  5. History of Cryosurgery. 2008.
  6. Krieg, AM; Yi, AK; Matson, S; Waldschmidt, TJ; Bishop, GA; Teasdale, R; Koretzky, GA; Klinman, DM (1995). "CpG motifs in bacterial DNA trigger direct B-cell activation". Nature. 374 (6522): 546–9. Bibcode:1995Natur.374..546K. doi:10.1038/374546a0. PMID 7700380. S2CID 4261304.
  7. McCarthy, EF (2006). "The Toxins of William B. Coley and the Treatment of Cancer". Iowa Orthop J. 26: 154–8. PMC 1888599. PMID 16789469.
  8. Sgantzos, M.; Tsoucalas, G.; Laios, K.; Androutsos, G. (2014). "The physician who first applied radiotherapy, Victor Despeignes, on 1896". Hellenic Journal of Nuclear Medicine. 17 (1): 45–6. PMID 24563880.
  9. McCarthy, EF (2006). "The Toxins of William B. Coley and the Treatment of Bone and Soft-Tissue Sarcomas". Iowa Orthop J. 26: 154–8. PMC 1888599. PMID 16789469.
  10. "Timeline: Milestones in Cancer Treatment".
  11. Fenn, John E.; Udelsman, Robert (2011). "First Use of Intravenous Chemotherapy Cancer Treatment: Rectifying the Record". Journal of the American College of Surgeons. 212 (3): 413–417. doi:10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2010.10.018. PMID 21247779.
  12. "Milestones in Cancer Research and Discovery". 2015-01-21.
  13. "Clinical virotherapy: four historically significant clinical trials".
  14. Huebner, RJ; Rowe, WP; Schatten, WE; Smith, RR; Thomas, LB (Nov–Dec 1956). "Studies on the use of viruses in the treatment of carcinoma of the cervix". Cancer. 9 (6): 1211–8. doi:10.1002/1097-0142(195611/12)9:6<1211::AID-CNCR2820090624>3.0.CO;2-7. PMID 13383455.
  15. Fujiwara, A.; Hoshino, T.; Westley, J. W. (1985). "Anthracycline Antibiotics". Critical Reviews in Biotechnology. 3 (2): 133–157. doi:10.3109/07388558509150782.
  16. Buchwald, Jed Z. (2012-01-05). A Master of Science History: Essays in Honor of Charles Coulston Gillispie. ISBN 9789400726260.
  17. "1956: the first successful bone marrow transplantation". home.cancerresearch. Australian Cancer Research Foundation. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  18. Emadi A, Jones RJ, Brodsky RA (2009). "Cyclophosphamide and cancer: golden anniversary". Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 6 (11): 638–47. doi:10.1038/nrclinonc.2009.146. PMID 19786984. S2CID 18219134.
  19. Goldman (1966). "A review: Applications of the laser beam in cancer biology". International Journal of Cancer. 1 (4): 309–318. doi:10.1002/ijc.2910010402. S2CID 72256690.
  20. Ravina, Enrique (2011). The evolution of drug discovery : from traditional medicines to modern drugs (1. Aufl. ed.). Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. pp. 157–159. ISBN 9783527326693.
  21. Devita, Vincent T.; Chu, Edward (2008). "A History of Cancer Chemotherapy". Cancer Research. 68 (21): 8643–8653. doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-6611. PMID 18974103.
  22. Muceniece A.J., Bumbieris J.V. 1982. Transplantation antigens and their changes in carcinogenesis and viral infection. In: Virusnyi onkoliz i iskusstvennaya geterogenizatsiya opukholei (Viral Oncolysis and Artificial Heterogenization of Tumors). Riga, pp. 217–234.
  23. the stem bark of Mappia foetida, a tree native to India, has proved to be another source significant for the isolation of camptothecin. TR Govindachari and N. Viswnathan, Phytochemistry 11(12), 3529-31 (1972). Efferth T, Fu YJ, Zu YG, Schwarz G, Konkimalla VS, Wink M (2007). "Molecular target-guided tumor therapy with natural products derived from traditional Chinese medicine". Current Medicinal Chemistry. 14 (19): 2024–32. doi:10.2174/092986707781368441. PMID 17691944.
  24. Tanaka (1982). "Immunological aspects of cryosurgery in general surgery". Cryobiology. 19 (3): 247–62. doi:10.1016/0011-2240(82)90151-1. PMID 7105777.
  25. Richard J. Ablin, PhD (1998). "The Use of Cryosurgery for Breast Cancer". Arch Surg. 133 (1): 106. doi:10.1001/archsurg.133.1.106. PMID 9438770.
  26. According to Littrup et al., who performed cryoablation of breast tumors in clinical stages I-IV with a multi-probe freeze approach, isotherms within cryozones can be accurately controlled and such cryoablation enables the destruction of much bigger lesions, up to 7 cm in diameter (15)Tarkowski, R; Rzaca, M (2014). "Cryosurgery in the treatment of women with breast cancer". Gland Surg. 3 (2): 88–93. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2227-684X.2014.03.04. PMC 4115762. PMID 25083502.
  27. Maximov, Philipp Y.; McDaniel, Russell E.; Craig Jordan, V. (2013-07-23). Tamoxifen: Pioneering Medicine in Breast Cancer. ISBN 9783034806640.
  28. Tamoxifen was born into a world of indifference in the '60s, when the focus of the research was on contraception. It grew up in the 70s, in a world where chemotherapy was king and hormonal therapies were perceived as non-starters in the quest to cure cancer.Jordan, V Craig (2000). "Tamoxifen: a personal retrospective" (PDF). The Lancet Oncology. 1 (1): 43–49. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(00)00009-7. PMID 11905688.
  29. "Center for Devices and Radiological Health U.S. Food and Drug Administration".
  30. Huang, Z (2006). "Photodynamic therapy in China: Over 25 years of unique clinical experience: Part One—History and domestic photosensitizers". Photodiagnosis and Photodynamic Therapy. 3 (1): 3–10. doi:10.1016/S1572-1000(06)00009-3. PMID 25049020. Xu, DY (2007). "Research and development of photodynamic therapy photosensitizers in China". Photodiagnosis and Photodynamic Therapy. 4 (1): 13–25. doi:10.1016/j.pdpdt.2006.09.003. PMID 25047186.
  31. "The Story of Gleevec". Archived from the original on 2013-10-21.
  32. Willson, TM; Henke, BR; Momtahen, TM; Charifson, PS; Batchelor, KW; Lubahn, DB; Moore, LB; Oliver, BB; Sauls, HR; Triantafillou, JA (1994). "a non-steroidal estrogen with functional selectivity for bone over uterus in rats". J Med Chem. 37 (11): 1550–2. doi:10.1021/jm00037a002. PMID 8201587.
  33. "Tamoxifen-like drug suggests new ways to selectively block estrogen".
  34. "Centre of laser medicine — Historical Aspects of Photodynamic Therapy Development". Retrieved 2011-08-05.
  35. In 1997, a patient with osteosarcoma was first successfully treated with ultrasound imaging-guided HIFU in Chongqing, China. Over the last decade, thousands of patients with uterine fibroids, liver cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, bone tumors, and renal cancer have been treated with ultrasound imaging-guided HIFU. Based on several research groups’ reports, as well as our ten-year clinical experience, we conclude that this technique is safe and effective in treating human solid tumors.Zhang, Lian; Wang, Zhi-Biao (2010). "High-intensity focused ultrasound tumor ablation: Review of ten years of clinical experience". Frontiers of Medicine in China. 4 (3): 294–302. doi:10.1007/s11684-010-0092-8. PMID 21191835. S2CID 21219521.
  36. History of Cryosurgery. 1997.
  37. "FAQ".
  38. "FDA Review Letter" (PDF).
  39. "History of Ablatherm HIFU".
  40. "British National Formulary".
  41. Pearson, S; Jia, H; Kandachi, K (2004). "China approves first gene therapy". Nature Biotechnology. 22 (1): 3–4. doi:10.1038/nbt0104-3. PMC 7097065. PMID 14704685.
  42. "how breast cancer drugs are developed".
  43. "Paclitaxel, Protein-Bound Suspension". Paclitaxel, Protein-Bound Suspension. Cancer.Org. January 6, 2015. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
  44. "International Cryosurgery Center". 2013.
  45. Niu, LZ; Li, JL; Zeng, JY; Mu, F; Liao, MT; Yao, F; Li, L; Liu, CY; Chen, JB; Zuo, JS; Xu, KC (2013). "Combination treatment with comprehensive cryoablation and immunotherapy in metastatic hepatocellular cancer". World J. Gastroenterol. 19 (22): 3473–80. doi:10.3748/wjg.v19.i22.3473. PMC 3683687. PMID 23801841.
  46. "thechinastory".
  47. "Cuba Announces Release of the World's First Lung Cancer Vaccine". PopSci. 2011-08-09. Retrieved 2011-12-11.
  48. Vázquez, A.M, Hernández, A.M., Macías, A., et al. (2012). Racotumomab: an anti-idiotype vaccine related to N-glycolyl-containing gangliosides – preclinical and clinical data. Front Oncol. 2012;2:150.
  49. "FDA approves device used to treat prostate cancer".