Upper Gastrointestinal -- Clinical Research Program

Our upper gastrointestinal cancer research team focuses on cancers of the esophagus, stomach, and pancreas, as well as on neuroendocrine tumors and tumors of the small intestine. We have made several of the major advances in the treatment of these diseases, and many of our investigators have been leading members of several national groups seeking to improve the detection, treatment, and prevention of upper gastrointestinal cancers.

In addition to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery, our team has helped develop new treatment techniques, such as laser therapy and photodynamic therapy. We have investigated new methods for delivering chemotherapy, such as intraperitoneal approaches. We are also looking at novel treatment approaches such as immunotherapy, vaccines, and targeted therapies aimed at specific genetic mutations.

Among our recent research accomplishments:

Molecular Pathology


  • We demonstrated that preoperative positron emission tomography scans influence management in patients with biliary cancer. J Am Coll Surg. 2008 Jan;206(1):57-65. [PubMed Abstract]


  • We completed a study comparing traditional “open” surgery to remove the stomach with laparoscopic gastrectomy. The findings demonstrated that while laparoscopic surgeries generally took longer to perform than open procedures, the minimally invasive approach yielded shorter hospital stays, decreased need for postoperative pain relief, fewer complications after surgery, and similar rates of recurrence-free survival after 36 months of follow-up. Ann Surg Oncol. 2009 Jun;16(6):1507-13. [PubMed Abstract]

Targeted Therapies

  • We demonstrated that patients operated for gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) live longer without their disease coming back if they receive the drug imatinib as an adjuvant therapy after surgery. Lancet. 2009 Mar 28;373(9669):1097-104. [PubMed Abstract]