Photograph of three researchers in the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center Improving options for patients with gastrointestinal cancers

With a comprehensive strategy and a multidisciplinary team, we're setting an aggressive agenda to advance the understanding of GI cancers and transform findings into clinical practice.


The mission of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive 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.

Our program investigators conduct research about a wide range of cancers that affect the gastrointestinal system, including pancreas cancer, liver cancer, esophagus cancer and colon cancer. Our 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

Our 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 Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota.

SPORE research grants

The Gastrointestinal Cancer Program also participates in the Mayo Clinic Hepatobiliary SPORE.

Program leadership

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

  • Dr. Bekaii-Saab is an oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, and a professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. He hopes that his research will result in the development of better tools to tackle the highly complex and heterogeneous nature of gastrointestinal cancer.
  • Dr. Fernandez-Zapico is a basic science researcher at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and a professor of medicine and pharmacology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. His research focuses on the cellular and molecular characterization of epigenetic pathways regulating the development of pancreatic cancer.