Ensign Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology) and Professor of Pharmacology; Director, Center for Thoracic Cancers; Deputy Director, Clinical Affairs; Assistant Dean for Translational Research, Office of the Dean, School of Medicine; Chief of Medical Oncology, Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital; Associate Cancer Center
Director, Translational Science
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.
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’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 a 2020 ASCO plenary talk 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 a 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 is
principal investigator (PI) of the Lung Master Protocol (Lung-MAP). He testified on this before the House of Representatives 21st Century Cures committee and served as a prominent figure in this area, for nine 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 currently the Vice Chair for Developmental Therapeutics for the Southwestern Oncology Group (SWOG) Lung Committee and PI of the SWOG 0819 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.
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 350 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. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and an elected member of the Association of American Physicians. He is vice chair of the Southwestern Oncology Group’s (SWOG) Lung Committee.
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.