About the Program

The mission of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center is to advance knowledge and understanding about the pathogenesis, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal malignancies, with the intent of reducing incidence, enhancing early detection and developing more-effective treatments that will ultimately improve overall patient outcomes.

Investigators in the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program conduct research about a wide range of cancers that affect the gastrointestinal system, including pancreas cancer, liver cancer, esophagus cancer and colon cancer. The program aims to develop and pursue innovative science that will lead to practice-changing outcomes that reduce the incidence of gastrointestinal cancers and increase survival.

Research initiatives

The Gastrointestinal Cancer Program focuses on four research areas:

  • Investigating novel approaches for early detection of gastrointestinal malignancies, with a focus on luminal cancers
  • Identifying and evaluating novel biomarkers for prognostic stratification and prediction of therapeutic outcomes
  • Examining the role of the tumor microenvironment, including the role of the gut microbiome in the initiation and progression of gastrointestinal malignancies
  • Developing and testing individualized treatment approaches against novel therapeutic targets

The Gastrointestinal Cancer Program conducts research at all three Mayo Clinic campuses — in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota.

SPORE research grant

The Gastrointestinal Cancer Program also participates in the Mayo Clinic Pancreatic Cancer SPORE. The SPORE promotes research focused on understanding the causes of pancreatic cancer and the pathways by which pancreatic cancer progresses. The SPORE also develops interventions to treat pancreatic cancer.

Program leadership

The Gastrointestinal Cancer Program is directed by Tanios S. Bekaii-Saab, M.D.; Martin E. Fernandez-Zapico, M.D.; and Frank A. Sinicrope, M.D.

  • Dr. Bekaii-Saab, a hematologist, is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Dr. Fernandez-Zapico, an oncologist, is a professor of medicine and pharmacology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Fernandez-Zapico's research focuses on the cellular and molecular characterization of epigenetic pathways regulating the development of pancreatic cancer.
  • Dr. Sinicrope, an oncologist and a gastroenterologist, is a professor of medicine and of oncology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota.