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March 2008 Volume 32 No.3
Colleagues mourn passing of Steven Leibel
medical director of Stanford Cancer Center


Memorial Services were scheduled for 3 p.m. March 19 at McCaw Hall at the Arrillaga Alumni Center at Stanford for Steven Leibel, the Ann and John Doerr Medical Director of the Stanford Cancer Center, who died Feb. 7 while vacationing in Hawaii. He was 61.

Leibel came to Stanford in 2004 as the first medical director of the newly opened cancer center. He oversaw the roughly 350 cancer specialists at the center, including physicians in medical, surgical and radiation oncology and other health-care professionals who work with cancer patients and their families.

School of Medicine officials say Leibel played a key role in Stanford’s successful effort to receive National Cancer Institute designation for the cancer center.

“Steve was highly respected by his colleagues at Stanford as well as nationally and internationally. He will be deeply missed,” said Philip Pizzo, dean of the School of Medicine. “Our hearts go out to his wife, parents and family – we have all lost a colleague, leader and friend.”

A San Francisco native, Leibel received his MD from UC-San Francisco where he also completed residency training in radiation oncology. He served on the faculties at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and UCSF before moving to New York in 1988 to join the Department of Radiation Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. He became chair of that department in 1998.

While at Sloan-Kettering, Leibel helped develop extremely precise therapies for treating cancers of the prostate and the brain. This work involved sophisticated new techniques in radiotherapy known as 3-D conformal radiation therapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy. The result has been a significant improvement in cure rates for some cancers, particularly prostate cancer.

Richard Hoppe, professor and chair of radiation oncology at Stanford, said the radiation technique Leibel advocated has since become standard care in prostate cancer. “He was one of the most widely respected radiation oncologists in the field,” he said.

Hoppe added that Leibel’s experience at three different cancer centers “gave him special talent in being able to bring people together.”

Leibel was president and chair of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, and had received the society’s gold medal, the highest honor given. He was president of the American Board of Radiology, the board-certifying body for diagnostic radiology, radiation oncology and medical physics. He was also on the board of Varian Medical Systems, Inc.

Leibel is survived by his wife, Margy, of Palo Alto; his parents, Dave and Tillie Leibel of Palo Alto; and his stepdaughter, Nicole Dennis of Pleasanton.

—Courtesy of Dean Philip Pizzo’s e-newsletter
and the School of Medicine
Office of Communication and Public Affairs