Roy Herbst ’84 GRD ’84 will be the Smilow Cancer Hospital’s first chief medical oncologist, the Yale Cancer Center announced Dec. 2.

Nationally recognized for his research on developmental cancer therapies, Herbst was appointed to lead the medical oncology department at Smilow after a nine-month search. In his new position, Herbst will be a facilitator between internal medicine and cancer therapy at Smilow. Herbst, who is currently the chief of Thoracic Medical Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said he hopes to encourage research that will improve the molecular understanding of tumors in order to individually tailor each patient’s treatment.

“He is one of the very top two or three doctors in the nation who are bringing new drugs to patients based on understanding of patient’s molecular profile,” Yale Cancer Center Director and Physician-in-Chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital Thomas Lynch said.

Smilow’s commitment to connecting research with clinical practice, in addition to the expansion of cancer research at West Campus were two of the major draws to accept the position, said Herbst, who is a former photographer for the News.

In the years since he left Yale, Herbst has pioneered several novel clinical studies that are now approved for patient treatments. This personalized method of cancer treatment is one of the major goals of the Smilow Cancer Center, Lynch said.

On Monday, Herbst came to New Haven to be introduced to the faculty at Smilow and the Yale Cancer Center.

Although this was his first time back to Yale campus in 25 years, Herbst, who studied molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale, is no stranger to the University’s cancer research community.

His freshman year roommate was the son of Paul Calabresi, a renowned Yale oncologist, and his English 129 classmate is now Lynch’s wife.

Although Herbst will officially begin his position in the middle of March 2011, Lynch said that Herbst will still be involved in the decision-making process for any new developments, including the hire of new scientists.

“He’s basically the head coach of the [Smilow] team,” Lynch described. “He’ll be bringing his team together.

Because of Smilow’s close partnership with the Yale Cancer Center, Herbst will also be facilitating the Center’s clinical, laboratory and research programs into Smilow as new cancer treatment for patients. This integration of research and patient care is known as translational medicine — an area in which Herbst is well-known.

Herbst said that his first goal at Smilow is to build and enhance the medical oncology group and to also work through the Cancer Center to develop translational research.

“My dream is that we can build Yale Cancer Center into one of the preeminent developmental therapeutics centers in the country,” he said.

In addition to being an endowed professor at MD Anderson, Herbst is also the chair of Tobacco Task Force of the American Association of Cancer Research.