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Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health Launch Major Cancer Research Institute

Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy Program Member and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Charles Sentman, PhD in a teaching moment with Tiffany Coupet, PhD (Guarini ’20) pre-COVID protocols. Photo by Rob Strong

A $25 million gift to Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health from Dorothy Byrne, a long-time supporter of cancer research and patient care, will establish a robust, interdisciplinary cancer research institute to leverage the innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration that is deeply embedded in the Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) in order to fast-track world-class scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside to benefit cancer patients in the region and around the world.

The Byrne Family Cancer Research Institute at Norris Cotton Cancer Center will transform and accelerate the translation of research to prevent and cure cancer, enhance cancer survivorship, and promote cancer health equity.

The gift, the largest ever given jointly to Dartmouth and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health (D-HH), is the lead gift in a $50 million campaign to create the institute, which will support the cancer center’s mission to radically expand access to immunotherapies, as well as to pioneer cancer prevention, diagnostics, and treatment through precision medicine, which customizes an approach to care and treatment for each patient. The institute will expand the NCCC’s biotech entrepreneurship efforts, providing research teams with the support, education, and infrastructure needed to bring innovation to the marketplace. The work will include guidance from alumni in the field as well as industry and investment leaders expanding medical innovations crucial for treating this complex disease.

The Byrne Institute strengthens the connections among the renowned teaching and research efforts of Dartmouth and its Geisel School of Medicine, Tuck School of Business, and Thayer School of Engineering and the expert clinical diagnostics and patient care throughout the D-HH system.

As part of the $50 million campaign announced today, the Byrne gift is intended to inspire additional support from Dartmouth alumni and parents, local and regional community members, and other philanthropists interested in investing in improved outcomes for cancer patients here and around the world. The gift is another in the generous tradition of the NCCC’s longstanding relationship with the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, which has already given more than $12 million to the center.

“Thanks to the vision of Dorothy Byrne and her late husband, Jack, this transformative gift is the beginning of a major mobilization of investment in our research and discovery enterprise,” says NCCC Director Steven Leach, a physician and scientist who is the Preston T. and Virginia R. Kelsey Distinguished Chair in Cancer at Geisel School of Medicine. “The launch of the Byrne Family Cancer Research Institute at Norris Cotton Cancer Center will elevate and accelerate our contributions among global cancer research institutes and make new and novel cancer treatment a reality.”

As part of NCCC’s strategic planning process, Geisel and D-HH recently mapped a bold plan to accelerate trans-disciplinary cancer research through a five-year, $50 million investment in the center. The Byrne commitment of $25 million to the plan serves as an important component in Dartmouth’s $3 billion The Call to Lead campaign, as well as a clear demonstration of support for the shared Dartmouth and D-HH vision to expand, intensify, and accelerate potentially life-saving cancer research.

“For 50 years, NCCC has been critically important for our work at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the larger Dartmouth health system,” says Joanne M. Conroy, MD, CEO and president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health. “With this extraordinary gift from Dorothy Byrne, and under the strong leadership of Steve Leach, our cancer center is poised to further cement its reputation as a major player in national cancer research and innovation, as well as one of the country’s foremost cancer treatment centers.”

Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 says the Byrne gift will strengthen and intensify collaboration between Dartmouth’s researchers and D-HH physicians. “The institute is an inspired and urgent collaboration between our two distinguished and complementary institutions. Working together, these accomplished scientists, researchers, and physicians will expand the scope of their work to find a cure for cancer and develop the best treatments for those living with the disease.”

Following the creation in 2016 of the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, the Byrne Institute is the second major interdisciplinary institute launched at Dartmouth during Hanlon’s presidency, each with the goal of tackling a complex global challenge.

Half of the $50 million investment will support academic excellence through the recruitment and retention of new PhD and physician scientists, acquisition of advanced research equipment, and enhanced training for Geisel students and faculty. The remaining half will support a best-in-class clinical trials research program and funding for the most promising innovations—ultimately putting those with greatest promise into the hands of the patients and physicians who need them most.

“The generosity of Dorothy Byrne inspires everyone connected to the Norris Cotton Cancer Center,” says Geisel Dean Duane Compton. “This landmark gift highlights the remarkable creativity and innovation in our cancer research programs and is a foundational step toward creating better cancer treatments and prevention strategies.”

The gift comes as NCCC celebrates its 50th anniversary, made possible by funds secured through New Hampshire’s then U.S. Sen. Norris Cotton’s support of the National Cancer Act. Since then, NCCC has been a leader in cancer care and research, as one of the nation’s 51 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and the only NCI Cancer Center north of Boston.

The Byrne family’s very substantial generosity over the past 15 years includes annual matching dollars to increase funds raised at NCCC’s largest annual community fundraiser, The Prouty, and a naming gift in 2014 of $10 million that created the Jack Byrne Center for Palliative & Hospice Care.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I join others in establishing The Byrne Family Cancer Research Institute at Norris Cotton Cancer Center,” says Dorothy Byrne. “I have admired Steve Leach and his work since I met him, and I know that he and his fellow scientists will endeavor to strive for new cancer research initiatives in the years ahead. I look forward to seeing that happen.”

About Norris Cotton Cancer Center

Norris Cotton Cancer Center, combines advanced cancer research through the deeply embedded partnership among Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, Tuck School of Business and Thayer School of Engineering and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system, which provides the highest level of high-quality, innovative, personalized, and compassionate patient-centered cancer care at both the Lebanon NH based Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), as well as at regional, multi-disciplinary locations and partner hospitals throughout NH and VT. NCCC is one of only 51 centers nationwide to earn the National Cancer Institute’s prestigious “Comprehensive Cancer Center” designation, the result of an outstanding collaboration between DHMC, New Hampshire’s only academic medical center, and Dartmouth. Now entering its sixth decade, NCCC remains committed to excellence, outreach and education, and strives to prevent and cure cancer, enhance survivorship and to promote cancer health equity through its pioneering interdisciplinary research. Each year the NCCC schedules 61,000 appointments seeing nearly 4,000 newly diagnosed patients, and currently offers its patients more than 100 active clinical trials.

About Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health (D-HH), New Hampshire’s only academic health system and the state’s largest private employer, serves a population of 1.9 million across northern New England. D-H provides access to more than 2,000 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH. DHMC was named again in 2021 as the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in 11 clinical specialties and procedures. In addition to NCCC, Dartmouth-Hitchcock also includes the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the state’s only children’s hospital; affiliated member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene, and New London, NH, and Windsor, VT, and Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and 24 Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. The D-H system trains nearly 400 residents and fellows annually, and performs world-class research, in partnership with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT.
About Dartmouth

Founded in 1769, Dartmouth is a member of the Ivy League and consistently ranks among the world’s greatest academic institutions. Dartmouth has forged a singular identity for combining its deep commitment to outstanding undergraduate liberal arts and graduate education with distinguished research and scholarship in the Arts and Sciences and its four leading graduate schools—the Geisel School of Medicine, the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies , Thayer School of Engineering], and the Tuck School of Business.

About the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Founded in 1797, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth strives to improve the lives of the communities it serves through excellence in learning, discovery, and healing. The Geisel School of Medicine is renowned for its leadership in medical education, healthcare policy and delivery science, biomedical research, global health, and in creating innovations that improve lives worldwide. As one of America’s leading medical schools, Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine is committed to training new generations of diverse leaders who will help solve our most vexing challenges in healthcare.