Leading Cancer Researcher to Join Columbia, NewYork-Presbyterian as Cancer Center Director

Dec 10, 2018

New York

Dr. Anil K. Rustgi

Anil K. Rustgi, MD, a leading cancer researcher and physician whose career has focused on gastrointestinal tumors, has been named director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Pending approval of the university’s trustees, Dr. Rustgi will serve as professor of medicine and associate dean of oncology in the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

For the past two decades, Dr. Rustgi has served as the T. Grier Miller Professor of Medicine and Genetics and Chief of Gastroenterology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, where he co-led the Tumor Biology Program. Dr. Rustgi also received the prestigious American Cancer Society Research Professorship.

“At this extraordinary moment in the evolution of cancer treatment, when Columbia’s world-class research scientists and clinicians are collaborating on a range of initiatives holding the promise of historic advances in fighting and curing this disease, Dr. Rustgi’s experience makes him ideally suited to lead the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said University President Lee C. Bollinger.

“After a national search that yielded a number of outstanding candidates, Dr. Rustgi stood out not only for his contributions as an academic oncologist, but also for his energy and his reputation as a consensus builder who is able to work across disciplines and organizational boundaries,” said Lee Goldman, MD, dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and chief executive of Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

“Dr. Rustgi brings with him a wealth of experience that exemplifies our cancer center’s promise to revolutionize the study and treatment of cancer,” said Steven J. Corwin, MD, president and chief executive officer of NewYork-Presbyterian. “His expertise will be critical as we continue to advance our mission of providing the highest-quality and most compassionate and innovative care to our patients and their families.”

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only three National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in New York state.

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.

“Building upon many collaborations and friendships at the University of Pennsylvania for the last 20-plus years, I look forward to joining 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.

Dr. Rustgi graduated summa cum laude from Yale College with a bachelor’s degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry and earned his medical degree at Duke University School of Medicine, where he was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, the national honor medical society. He completed an internal medicine residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a GI fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, both of which are affiliates of Harvard Medical School. He also served as associate professor of medicine before joining the University of Pennsylvania in 1998.

Dr. Rustgi has been elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Previously, he was president of the American Gastroenterological Association, editor-in-chief of Gastroenterology, and president of the International Society of Gastroenterological Carcinogenesis.

More Details

At the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, Dr. Rustgi served as director of the NIH/NIDDK Center for Molecular Studies in Digestive and Liver Diseases, director of the Joint Penn-CHOP Center for Digestive, Liver, and Pancreatic Medicine, and co-leader of the Tumor Biology Program.


Initially, Dr. Rustgi’s research focused on the role of cancer-causing viruses, such as HPV and Epstein-Bar viruses, in the development and progression of GI tumors. Later, he discovered that human cyclin D1, a major cell cycle regulatory protein, is overexpressed in about half of esophageal tumors. Dr. Rustgi developed mouse models that overexpressed the protein, which then developed esophageal cancer.

In addition, Dr. Rustgi has investigated the role of EGFR, a cancer-promoting protein, and tumor suppressor genes (p53, p120, and catenin) in the development, progression, and spread of GI cancers. His team has translated preclinical findings into early phase clinical trials in patients with GI cancers.


Dr. Rustgi has published more than 300 studies and is the editor of several textbooks on GI cancers. His work has appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as Cancer Cell, Cancer Research, Gastroenterology, Journal of Clinical Investigation, and Nature.


Dr. Rustgi receives funding from the NIH (including the NCI and the NIDDK), American Cancer Society, and an industry-sponsored research agreement in which Dr. Rustgi is Principal Investigator.

Additional Honors

Starting in 2020, Dr. Rustgi will serve as President of the American Pancreatic Association.

Media Contact:

Office of Communications