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Steven D. Leach, MD, Named Director of Norris Cotton Cancer Center

Physician and scientist Steven D. Leach, MD, has been selected as the new Director of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. The appointment was announced today by Dr. Duane Compton, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, and Dr. James N. Weinstein, CEO and President of Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

Steven D. Leach, MD

As the leader of northern New England’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated comprehensive cancer centers, Leach will oversee a nationally recognized program that combines advanced cancer research at Dartmouth and the Geisel School of Medicine with patient-centered cancer care provided across the Dartmouth-Hitchcock health system.

“I am incredibly honored to be selected by the search committee for this important position, and thrilled to be joining the Dartmouth community,” said Leach. “Norris Cotton is already recognized as one of the nation's leading cancer centers, with an outstanding reputation for combining compassionate, state-of-the-art cancer care with cutting edge cancer research. My vision is to further extend the Dartmouth model of truly patient-centered multi-disciplinary cancer care throughout the region and beyond, and to advance the frontiers of cancer research through trans-disciplinary partnership with scientists and researchers throughout Geisel, Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth College.”

Leach is currently the David M. Rubenstein Chair and Director of the Rubenstein Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center, leading a large team of scientists and clinicians focused on improving the lives of pancreatic cancer patients. As both a physician-scientist and a surgical oncologist, Leach has spent the past 25 years conducting both basic science and clinical research, becoming the inaugural director of MSK’s pancreatic cancer research center in 2014. He is also a professor of surgery at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. He previously served as the Paul K. Neumann Professor in Pancreatic Cancer Research, Professor of Surgery, Oncology and Cell Biology, Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology and Vice Chair for Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins University.

“It is with excitement and anticipation that we welcome Dr. Steve Leach as our new Cancer Center director,” said Weinstein. “Dr. Leach is a world-renowned pancreatic cancer specialist with significant interest in the biology, models, and mechanisms of cancer development and in genomic research to perform sequencing and analysis of the cell types involved in human pancreatic cancer. He will lead Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the Cancer Center into a new era of research and discovery at the molecular level that will benefit patients for generations to come."

In addition to his appointment as the director of the NCCC, Leach will hold the Preston T. and Virginia R. Kelsey Distinguished Chair in Cancer at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. This chair supports the director of the NCCC in advancing innovative research that translates into clinical and preventative cancer care.

"I am very excited that Steven Leach has agreed to lead our cancer program,” says Compton. “Dr. Leach is an outstanding physician and scientist, and a passionate educator. I look forward to working with him to grow our cancer-related research programs across Dartmouth and build on our outstanding cancer clinical care through Dartmouth-Hitchcock.”

“A testament to the strong partnership between Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock is the real impact the NCCC has on improving the lives of its patients,” says Dartmouth College Phil Hanlon. “I am confident with Steven Leach as the director the impact of the important work will only increase.”

Leach will continue his research into pancreatic cancer biology. His lab at MSK has made important discoveries that have established previously unrecognized links between pancreatic development and pancreatic cancer. More recently, Leach’s team has completed highly translational studies focused on more advanced stages of the disease, including the development of novel models for testing the drug sensitivity of each patient's individual tumor.

After earning his AB in Biology at Princeton University, Leach received his medical degree from Emory University in 1986. He completed his residency in general surgery and a post-doctoral research fellowship at Yale University, followed by a surgical oncology fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center. He is board certified in general surgery. He also recently completed a term on the Princeton University Board of Trustees, and serves as Chair of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's Scientific and Medical Advisory Board.

Leach will start his role at the NCCC in September, 2017.

Members of the Search Committee include:

  • Joseph J. Helble, PhD, Dean, Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth (search committee chair)
  • Charles K. Barlowe, PhD, Chair and Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology; James C. Chilcott ’20 Professor.
  • Richard J. Barth, Jr., MD, Section Chief, General Surgery; Professor of Surgery
  • Mark A. Creager, MD, Director, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Heart and Vascular Center; Professor of Surgery; Anna Gundlach Huber Professor of Medicine
  • Konstantin H. Dragnev, MD, Interim Deputy Director and Associate Director for Clinical Research, NCCC; Professor of Medicine; Irene Heinz Given Professor in Pharmacology
  • Robert W. Gerlach, MPA, Associate Director for Administration and Scientific Affairs, NCCC
  • Margaret R. Karagas, PhD, Chair and Professor of Epidemiology; Professor of Community & Family Medicine; James W. Squires, MD, Professor
  • Randolph J. Noelle, PhD, Professor of Microbiology & Immunology; Thomas S. Kosasa, MD, Professor
  • Jeffrey F. O’Brien, MHA, Vice President for Cancer Programs, NCCC
  • Keith D. Paulsen, PhD, Chair of Biomedical Engineering; Robert A. Pritzker Professor Thayer School of Engineering
  • Yolanda Sanchez, PhD, Associate Director for Basic Sciences, NCCC; Associate Professor of Molecular and Systems Biology
  • Anna N. A. Tosteson, ScD, Professor of Medicine and of Community and Family Medicine; James J. Carroll Professor in Oncology
  • Wendy A. Wells, MBBS, Chair and Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; E. Elizabeth French Professor
  • Sandra L. Wong, MD, Chair and Professor of Surgery; Interim Cancer Center Service Line Director


About the Norris Cotton Cancer Center: The Norris Cotton Cancer Center is one of the nation's premier facilities for cancer treatment and research. It is one of only 48 National Cancer Institute designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. This designation recognizes excellence in basic, clinical and population science research. The Cancer Center provides a positive environment for treatment, cure, and recovery for patients with all forms of cancer. Patients receive technologically advanced cancer treatments and access to clinical trials of new treatments. Each patient is seen as an individual, and a specific treatment plan is developed by specialists who work directly with the patient, family, and referring physician. The Cancer Center is also a leader in improving the comfort and quality of life of patients.