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This work examines translational science in cancer based on theories of innovation that posit a relationship between the maturation of technologies and their capacity to generate successful products. We examined the growth of technologies associated with 138 anticancer drugs using an analytical model that identifies the point of initiation of exponential growth and the point at which growth slows as the technology becomes established. Approval of targeted and biological products corresponded with technological maturation, with first approval averaging 14 years after the established point and 44 years after initiation of associated technologies. The lag in cancer drug approvals after the increases in cancer funding and dramatic scientific advances of the 1970s thus reflects predictable timelines of technology maturation. Analytical models of technological maturation may be used for technological forecasting to guide more efficient translation of scientific discoveries into cures.