Timeline: Chemotherapy and the war on cancer

Nat Rev Cancer. 2005 Jan;5(1):65-72. doi: 10.1038/nrc1529.


The era of chemotherapy began in the 1940s with the first uses of nitrogen mustards and antifolate drugs. Cancer drug development since then has transformed from a low-budget, government-supported research effort to a high-stakes, multi-billion dollar industry. The targeted-therapy revolution has arrived, but the principles and limitations of chemotherapy discovered by the early researchers still apply. This article chronicles the history of modern chemotherapy and identifies remaining challenges for the next generation of researchers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / history*
  • United States


  • Antineoplastic Agents