Director’s Message

Dr. Sanchez

I am delighted to welcome you to the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only cancer center in New Mexico that is designated by the National Cancer Institute. We are proud to offer the most advanced cancer treatments, based on the latest science, to all New Mexicans right here in our home state.

— Yolanda Sanchez, PhD, Director and CEO

Director and CEO
The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Maurice and Marguerite Liberman Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research
Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Molecular Medicine,
The University of New Mexico School of Medicine

Professor of Molecular and Systems Biology
Associate Director for Basic Sciences, Dartmouth Cancer Center

Yolanda (Yoli) Sanchez carried out her graduate work at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Stephen Elledge’s laboratory, she used yeast and mammalian cells to dissect the signaling pathways that regulate S phase and Mitosis following DNA damage where she cloned the mammalian and yeast checkpoint kinase 1 genes. The human Chk1 kinase and the Chk1/Atr pathway are being explored as oncology targets in clinical trials. Dr. Sanchez’s first faculty appointment was at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where she was granted tenure in 2004 before being recruited in 2006 to Dartmouth’s Medical School, now known as the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. Dr. Sanchez was named a PEW Scholar in 2001. Her laboratory continues to study the DNA damage response pathways. More recently, her laboratory has focused on targeting the Achilles heel of cancers driven by dysregulated Ras signaling using synthetic lethal chemical screens.

Dr. Sanchez also brings several years of leadership experience at the Dartmouth Cancer Center (DCC, formerly known as the Norris Cotton Cancer Center) and SYNERGY (Dartmouth’s CTSA).  Dr. Sanchez is the Associate Director of Basic Sciences at DCC and serves on the steering committee of the Early Phase Trial Clinical Oncology Group (EPTCOG), which ensures that opportunities for translational research are explored and supported by pilot funding and that effective clinical collaborations for translational research are nurtured.  Dr. Sanchez’s roles include fostering bidirectional translation, and in 2015 she spearheaded a seed-funding program to support multi-investigator multi-disciplinary programs. This initiative, which involves peer review of a written application as well as site-visit style team presentations, has supported interdisciplinary programs in immuno-engineering, imaging and image-guided surgery, flash radiotherapy, breast cancer, and global health. Investment in a multi-PI team focused on early-stage breast Cancer and flash radiotherapy resulted, thus far, in over 5 million dollars in direct costs for multi-PI grants and a recently funded U01. Dr. Sanchez worked with the Cancer Center, Dartmouth Health, and Medical School’s leadership teams on two successful renewals of the Cancer Center Support Grant from the NCI in 2014-15 and 2018-19.

Outside of Dartmouth, Dr. Sanchez has served on numerous National Institutes of Health (NIH) panels and has participated in the review of P01 and SPORE applications. She is co-inventor on several patents and provisional patents.

Dr. Sanchez was elected to join the Board of Directors of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI), beginning her term during the AACI/CCAF Annual Meeting in October of 2023.

Most recently, Dr. Sanchez was quoted in a White House statement on the Cancer Moonshot in an article which featured First Lady Jill Biden and the perspectives of leading health insurers and other oncology practices on new actions to expand patient navigation nationwide. Dr. Sanchez was given the opportunity to highlight the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center's role in meeting the needs of all cancer patients in New Mexico, which has a minority-majority population in a highly rural state. Our nurse and patient navigators help patients and families by offering culturally-appropriate information, support and navigation to cancer care.