It was founded in 1909 as a research department of the Royal Marsden Hospital and joined the University of London in 2003. It has been responsible for a number of breakthrough discoveries, including that the basic cause of cancer is damage to DNA.
The ICR occupies two sites, one in Chelsea, Central London and one in Sutton, southwest London, and had a total income of £85.4 million in 2010/11, of which £50.5 million was from research grants and contracts. The ICR provides both taught postgraduate degree programmes and research degrees and currently has around 340 students.
Together with the Royal Marsden Hospital the ICR forms the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe, and was ranked first amongst all British higher education institutions in the Times Higher Education 2008 Research Assessment Exercise Table of Excellence.