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Steven D Leach, MD

Professor of Molecular and Systems Biology
Professor of Surgery
Professor of Medicine
Preston T. and Virginia R. Kelsey Professor
Director, Dartmouth Cancer Center

Additional Titles/Positions/Affiliations
Preston T. and Virginia R. Kelsey Distinguished Chair in Cancer

Molecular and Systems Biology

MD, Emory University
BS, Princeton University

Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Programs
Dartmouth Cancer Center
Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine


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Professional Interests

Dr. Leach’s laboratory has a long track record of research productivity in the field of pancreatic cancer biology and is known for establishing important links between pancreatic development and pancreatic cancer using both mouse and zebrafish model systems. These include the initial discovery of abnormal Notch pathway activation as an important driver of pancreatic tumorigenesis, the identification of adult acinar cells effective “cells of origin” for pancreatic “ductal” neoplasia, the identification of a new hematopoietic-to-epithelial signaling axis required for PanIN initiation, and a detailed mapping of a unique immune neoepitope landscape associated with long term survival. Together with additional studies of pancreatic development and pancreatic epithelial plasticity, these findings have widened our view of early events in human pancreatic cancer.

Rotations and Thesis Projects

1. The role of altered mRNA splicing in pancreatic cancer biology
2. Chromatin accessibility signatures as predictors of outcome in human pancreatic cancer
3. Patterns and mechanisms of clonal evolution in mouse and zebrafish cancer models

Mentoring Information

In addition to these scientific achievements, Dr. Leach also has a long track record of successful mentorship of graduate students, post-doctoral research fellows and junior faculty. To date, he has personally mentored a total of 32 students and postdoctoral research fellows, many of whom have gone on to achieve their own independent faculty positions and independent NIH funding. Dr. Leach has been the principal investigator for multiple NIH R01, P01, P30, U01, S10 and T32 grants, and has received multiple awards honoring this work. He was inducted as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2019.


Steven D. Leach is Professor of Molecular and Systems Biology, the Preston T. and Virginia R. Kelsey Distinguished Chair in Cancer, and the new Director of Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Prior to this, he directed Memorial Sloan Kettering's Rubenstein Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research, and also served as Professor of Surgery, Oncology and Cell Biology at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Leach received his bachelor’s degree with high honors in Biology from Princeton University. He then completed medical school at Emory University, where he was a Robert Woodruff Fellow, followed by additional clinical and scientific training at Yale and M.D. Anderson

Selected Publications


  • Balanchandran VP, Luksza M, Zhao JN…Leach SD Identification of unique neoantigen qualities in long term pancreatic cancer survivors. . Nature, 2017 Nov 8. doi: 10.1038/nature24462. [Epub ahead of print] (view details in PubMed)

  • 2. McAllister F, Bailey JM, Alsina J, Nirschl C, Roeser JC, Lankapalli RH, Zhang H, Jaffee EM, Drake CG, Maitra A, Kolls JK, Sears CL, Pardoll DM, Leach SD. Oncogenic Kras activates a hematopoietic-to-epithelial IL-17 signaling axis in preinvasive pancreatic neoplasia. Cancer Cell, 2014, 12;25(5):621-37. doi: 10.1016/j.ccr.2014.03.014 (view details in PubMed)

  • 3. Rhim, AD, Mirek ET, Aiello NM, Maitra, A, Bailey JM, McAllister F, Reichert M, Beatty GL, Rustgi, AK, Vonderheide RH, Leach SD, Stanger, BZ. EMT and Dissemination Precede Pancreatic Tumor Formation. Cell 148: 349-361; doi 10.1016/j.cell.2011.11.025. (view details in PubMed)

  • 4. Miyamoto Y, Maitra A, Ghosh B, Zechner U, Argani P, Iacobuzio-Donahue CA, Sriuranpong V, Meszoely IM, Wolfe MS, Hruban RH, Ball DW, Schmid RM, Leach SD. Notch mediates TGF-induced changes in epithelial differentiation during pancreatic tumorigenesis. Cancer Cell 3:565-576, 2003 Jun;3(6):565-76. (view details in PubMed)