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First Published: September 24: 2015


















































Enlighten Universana The Humanion Beacon Organisations

The Institute of Cancer Research London is Such an Organisation





Enlighten Universana The Humanion Beacon Organisations











Enlighten Universana The Humanion Beacon Organisations: The Institute of Cancer Research London

Our History

The Institute of Cancer Research, London, has been carrying out world-leading research into the causes of cancer, and how it might be treated or prevented, for more than 100 years.

The ICR was founded in 1909 as The Cancer Hospital Research Institute, a small research laboratory within what would become The Royal Marsden in Chelsea. It was officially opened by Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, in 1911 during his visit to award The Royal Marsden its Royal Charter.

When the NHS was formed in 1948, the ICR became independent from The Royal Marsden, requiring a legal separation of the two organisations. But the ICR still works in close partnership with the hospital, allowing us to have a unique ‘bench-to-bedside’ approach, and together the two organisations are rated in the top four centres for cancer research and treatment in the world.

Biomarkers Offer a Glimpse into the Future of Personalised Cancer Treatment

Over the course of the ICR’s history, the organisation has grown substantially, and in the 1930s expanded into larger premises at its current location in 237 Fulham Road. Alongside The Royal Marsden, we expanded to a second London site in Sutton in the 1950s to work on the new field of nuclear medicine, creating a centre of excellence in medical physics and radiotherapy.

Right from the start, ICR researchers have made pioneering discoveries that have helped drive forward cancer research worldwide and had significant benefits for patients. In the 1920s and 30s, our scientists made some of the first discoveries of carcinogenic compounds in coal tar. Throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s, ICR researchers carried out important early work on the role of chemotherapy, developing melphalan and chlorambucil – two drugs still used to treat cancer today.

In the 1970s and 80s, the ICR helped to develop carboplatin, a drug used to treat solid tumours with fewer side-effects than the existing treatment (cisplatin). ICR scientists worked to improve the accuracy of radiotherapy during the 1980s, developing techniques that better targeted tumours.

Gene Editing Could Stop Cancer Cells Escaping the Immune System

The 1990s saw the discovery of BRCA2, an important gene in the familial inheritance of breast and ovarian cancer. Since 2005, the ICR has discovered 20 preclinical drug candidates, and has taken eight new drugs into clinical trials. One of those was abiraterone, approved by NICE in 2012 to treat advanced prostate cancer.

As well as our prestigious research history, the ICR has a long history in training the next generation of cancer researchers. In 1927, the University of London recognised the hospital and research institute together as a centre for postgraduate medical teaching and training. When the ICR separated from The Royal Marsden over 20 years later, the ICR took the academic status and became part of the British Postgraduate Medical Federation. When this was dissolved in 1996 the ICR became an Associate Institution of the University of London, and was recognised as a full College of the University of London in 2003.

The Institute of Cancer Research Receives the Prestigious Recognition for Its World Class Innovative Research Work as It Gets the Regius Professorship on Queen's Birthday Honours

The ICR's campus in Sutton: Image: ICR

Our discoveries

The Institute of Cancer Research has an outstanding record of scientific achievement dating back more than 100 years. Here are some of the ICR’s most influential discoveries, all of which have played an important role in shaping our modern understanding of cancer and how it can be treated.

Blood Test Supports Use of Potential New Treatment for Patients with Stomach Cancer

Carcinogens in cigarette smoke
We identified many of the cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke and coal tar – including the first pure carcinogen ever to be isolated.
Find out more

Discovering early chemotherapy drugs
We were the first in Europe to develop chemotherapeutic agents.  We discovered, and with The Royal Marsden, developed the chemotherapy drugs busulfan, chlorambucil, melphalan and carboplatin, which are still in use worldwide more than 50 years later.
Find out more

DNA damage and cancer
We provided the first conclusive evidence that the basic cause of cancer is damage to DNA. This discovery changed scientific opinion dramatically and marked a turning point in the field of cancer research. Up to that point, proteins had widely been thought to be the site of action for carcinogens.
Find out more


Dr Bissan Al-Lzikani at The ICR London

The function of the thymus
We discovered the function of the thymus and made key findings on the function of the two main subsets of lymphocytes, T cells and B cells. This was the fundamental basis for modern immunology and cancer immunotherapy.
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How cells become cancerous
We played a major role in revealing the biochemical steps of the RAS-RAF-MAP kinase pathway. We identified one of the major mechanisms by which RAS oncogenes cause normal cells to become cancerous and provided new targets for cancer therapeutics.
Find out more

Genetics Genetic Testing Can Help Deliver Precision Medicine to Men with Advanced Prostate Cancer

  • Identifying a breast cancer gene
    We identified the breast cancer gene BRCA2, which enabled families with a history of breast cancer to be assessed for future risk, and laid the groundwork for developing novel forms of therapy for BRCA-associated cancers.
    Find out more

  • Advanced radiotherapy techniques
    We have made a number of major contributions to modern high-precision radiotherapy techniques, such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT). These target radiation doses precisely to the shape of tumours, increasing the effectiveness of treatment and reducing toxicity and side-effects.
    Find out more

  • Transforming prostate cancer treatment
    We transformed care for advanced prostate cancer, by validating inhibitors of androgen production as an effective cancer treatment, and discovering and developing abiraterone, a life-extending prostate cancer drug.
    Find out more

Eminent ICR Researcher Professor Nazneen Rahman Awarded CBE  in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Enlighten Universana The Humanion Beacon Organisations: The Institute of Cancer Research London