Gastrointestinal Cancer Program


Premier Research Program

Our extensive research efforts make us one of the most comprehensive GI Cancer programs in the country.

Since Penn's discovery of the Philadelphia Chromosome which revolutionized cancer treatment, we've had a history of groundbreaking research.

Our team is focused on finding ways to detect GI cancers at the earliest possible level—making it possible to develop therapies using new agents and combination treatments.

We are at the forefront in a number of areas, all of which can make a difference today and in the future.

Making History

Our GI cancer doctors:

  • Led the way in improving care by treating patients with combined therapies, such as surgery plus chemotherapy or radiation, and new treatments such as photodynamic therapy.
  • Developed surgical procedures that preserve function while providing the best chance for cure and maintaining quality of life.
  • Pioneered the field of nutritional support for GI cancer patients, which is crucial to care and recovery.

Shaping the Future

  • Reflecting the level of research excellence, Penn's Center for Molecular Studies in Digestive and Liver Disease is funded by the NIH. The center involves 70 faculty and provides funding for collaborative investigation at the basic science and translational research levels and core facilities that provide special techniques required for advanced research.
  • Penn investigators have developed pancreatic and esophageal mouse models that are allowing us to study the development of primary tumors and their response to new drugs.
  • Penn is the only medical center in the country funded by the NCI Program Project Mechanism for Esophageal Cancer.
  • Our basic scientists are developing new ways to study genetic alterations and determine their clinical outcome.
  • A multidisciplinary research team is developing and testing imaging technology that will improve our ability to diagnose and treat at the molecular level, thus allowing us to be able to detect cancer earlier and predict clinical response to treatment. These include:
    • Evaluating the effectiveness of fluorescence techniques (molecular beacons) to detect the presence of GI cancer cells.
    • Evaluating imaging (x-ray, scan etc,) to check tumor growth, size and progression, and changes in genes and cells related to cancer development.
  • Our gastroenterologists are developing advanced endoscopic equipment and techniques using molecular imaging that will enable us to identify areas to biopsy. This will improve our ability to diagnose and more effectively target treatment.
  • Together, our radiation oncologists and surgeons are evaluating the effectiveness of photodynamic therapy for treating GI cancer.This work is funded by an NCI program project grant.
  • Penn physicians have advanced our ability to treat GI cancer using chemotherapy. Our GI medical oncologists are among the most highly regarded physicians in the field, as leaders in the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group.
  • Through our Phase I/II (Developmental Therapeutics) program, we are examining a variety of new treatments. These studies are carried out by our dedicated Phase I/II team.
  • We are actively investigating ways to reduce resistance to chemotherapy and radiation.

As one of the nation's largest cancer research centers our investigators benefit each day from collaborations and interactions with over 400 scientists and physicians involved in the Abramson Cancer Center.