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Our history

“A dream is one thing. A realization is something entirely separate." 

-Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Danny Thomas in front of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Video: The founding of St. Jude

St. Jude Founder's Day video

Danny Thomas vowed he'd build a hospital if he ever became famous.


Why Danny Thomas opened St. Jude

More than 70 years ago, Danny Thomas was a young entertainer with a baby on the way. Work wasn't easy to come by, and his despair grew. He turned to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, and vowed:

Show me my way in life, and I will build you a shrine.

That prayer marked a pivotal moment. Soon after, he began finding work, eventually becoming one of the biggest stars of radio, film and television in his day. He was on Make Room for Daddy, later known as The Danny Thomas Show. 

Danny used his fame to fulfill his vow and to change the lives of thousands of children and families. In 1962, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital opened in front of a crowd of 9,000 in Memphis, Tenn. 

Historical milestones




A group of St. Jude patients are the first acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients to ever be successfully taken off therapy, based on evidence that remission can be sustained. 




The hospital launches the first major effort to understand the lifelong progression of sickle cell disease.




We open the After Completion of Therapy Clinic, the world's largest long-term follow-up clinic for pediatric cancer patients.




Peter Doherty, PhD, St. Jude Immunology chair, is awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.  




St. Jude reports a 94% survival rate for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), using therapy that does not include radiation.




The St. Jude LIFE study begins to study the long-term effects of cancer and its treatment. This initiative is one of the most ambitious follow-up projects ever conceived.  




St. Jude is designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center. We're the first and only cancer center solely focused on pediatric cancer to receive this distinction.




We launch the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, a collaboration with Washington University to uncover why childhood cancer arises, spreads and resists treatment. As part of the world’s largest such initiative, scientists compare the complete normal and cancer genomes of 800 childhood cancer patients with some of the toughest and least understood pediatric cancers.




St. Jude and World Health Organization announce a five-year collaboration to transform cancer care by curing at least 60% of children with six of the most common kinds of cancer worldwide by 2030.




St. Jude announces a cure for SCID-X1, commonly known as bubble boy disease. By combining gene therapy and low-dose chemotherapy with busulfan, immune function is restored in infants with the disorder. 

Patient Camila walks down a hallway at St. Jude.

St. Jude patient Camila


Help us continue our lifesaving work

When St. Jude opened in 1962, childhood cancer was considered largely incurable. Since then, St. Jude has helped push the overall survival rate from 20% to more than 80%, and we won't stop until no child dies from cancer.

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Continue exploring our history

Two researches looking into a microscope

St. Jude was the first integrated children's hospital in the South.

St. Jude patient in a superhero cape

We've won clinical and scientific achievements. 

St. Jude CEO

Learn about our CEOs since 1961. 

St. Jude campus

Continue reading about our history. 

St. Jude patient Pepe stands with his mom and holds a photo of himself from when he was in treatment at St. Jude.

St. Jude patient Pepe with his mom


Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — so they can focus on helping their child live.

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