On April 1, Anil K. Rustgi, a leading cancer researcher and physician, began his role as the new director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC). The HICCC, which brings together world-renowned experts, scientists and physicians from every corner of the cancer landscape, is in an exciting period of growth, innovation, and expansion.

Anil K. Rustgi, MD, new director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“The commitment to excellence in research, education and clinical care is part of the very fabric of the cancer center—and that has been longstanding,” says Dr. Rustgi. “I have been impressed with the depth and breadth of basic science research, the growth of translational research, inclusive of clinical trials, and the growth in clinical care, both on campus as well as with our partner hospitals.”

Dr. Rustgi comes to Columbia and NewYork-Presbyterian after a more than 20-year career on faculty at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, where he has served as T. Grier Miller Professor of Medicine and Genetics, American Cancer Society Professor, director of an NIDDK P30 Center, director of a Penn-CHOP Center, director of NIH T32 training grants, and chief of Gastroenterology.

Dr. Rustgi's research focuses on the intrinsic cellular processes and tumor microenvironment that lead to the development, progression, and metastasis of gastrointestinal cancers, including cancer of the esophagus, pancreas, and colon. Using mouse models and 3D culture models, Dr. Rustgi is investigating the role of cancer-causing genes and tumor suppressor genes in the pathogenesis of GI cancers.

As the new leader of the HICCC, Dr. Rustgi will pursue multiple initiatives to build on the current growth and innovation in cancer research.

“We will focus on continuing to enhance our basic research and connecting the discoveries in the labs with translational research in the clinics. As a part of that, we will also build our investigator-initiated clinical trials, which are trials that start here at the HICCC with science from our labs,” says Dr. Rustgi. “We will also emphasize our efforts in precision oncology to put HICCC on the forefront of designing novel therapies unique to each patient’s cancer. Finally, we’ll also take a macro view, working on better strategies for cancer prevention in our local area, as well as globally with partnerships across the world.”

As a practicing physician who will continue his clinical duties at NYP/CUIMC, Dr. Rustgi also recognizes the importance of bridging the research with patient care.

“We want to focus on multidisciplinary clinical care for our patients, bringing directly to the bedside all the many specialties that work together in treating a patient’s cancer,” says Dr. Rustgi. “We will bring this care not only to our patients in this part of Manhattan, but also to the larger New York area in collaboration with our partner hospitals.”

Dr. Rustgi’s experience and expertise not only as an academic physician, but also as a leader who is able to build consensus across disciplines and organizations, uniquely position him to direct the comprehensive work at HICCC that spans disciplines from laboratory to the clinical and the community.

“Building upon many collaborations and friendships at the University of Pennsylvania for the last 20-plus years, I am honored to join Columbia University, its medical school and the cancer center of Columbia and NewYork-Presbyterian to advance the shared missions of providing innovative and quality patient care, engaging in research, and forging pathways for students, residents, fellows, faculty, and staff alike,” said Dr. Rustgi.