Gastrointestinal Cancer Disease Management Group Research
At Perlmutter Cancer Center, the Gastrointestinal Disease Management Group (DMG) is dedicated to advancing the treatment of gastrointestinal (GI) cancers through state-of-the-art clinical care, research, and education. We provide cutting-edge, multidisciplinary care for patients while advancing the clinical and basic science of GI malignancies.
Our DMG is comprised of a multidisciplinary group of medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, general surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, gastroenterologists, research nurses, and clinical research regulatory personnel.
Our clinicians treat people with cancer of the esophagus, gastrointestinal tract, small bowels, hepatobiliary system, pancreas, colorectal area, intrabdominal tumors and masses, and splenic and adrenal lesions. Each area has a separate biology, molecular biology, etiology, and therapy that require specialized knowledge to treat, and we are experts in treating a variety of tumor types. We treat patients at Perlmutter Cancer Center and other inpatient and outpatient facilities across NYU Langone Health, providing complex GI cancer care throughout the NYU Langone system.
Our DMG meets weekly on Thursdays from 5:00 to 6:00PM to discuss and review research and clinical trial portfolios, develop research programs, and initiate and open new clinical trials. We also hold two weekly multidisciplinary patient management and tumor board conferences to review collaborative multidisciplinary patient care and identify patients for clinical trial enrollment. These occur on Monday mornings at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue and Tuesday mornings at Tisch Hospital. More specialized tumor boards are held in specific areas of pancreatic masses and cancer through the Pancreatic Cancer Center and liver tumors in the Liver Tumor Program.
We focus on translating the work of basic scientists into real-time therapies for patients by developing new treatments influencing therapy for GI cancers throughout the world. Our researchers participate in and lead national clinical trials for patients with GI cancers. Our leaders hold key roles in the National Cancer Institute task forces for rectal and upper GI malignancies and the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) and SWOG (formerly the Southwest Oncology Group). They participate in the Academic Gastrointestinal Cancer Consortium, an organization of GI cancer experts who are conducting translational trials in GI malignancies.
Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Leadership
Paul E. Oberstein, MD
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine
Assistant Director, Pancreatic Cancer Center
Director, Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology Program
Theodore H. Welling, MD
Associate Professor, Department of Surgery
Director, Liver Tumor Program
Kevin L. Du, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology
Director, Radiation Oncology Residency Program
Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Areas of Focus
Research at the Gastrointestinal Cancer DMG, conducted by basic scientists, translational researchers, clinicians, and epidemiologists, aims to improve cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment for patients from all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Our investigators work together to understand the fundamental mechanisms that contribute to the development, invasion, and metastasis of all types of GI malignancies, including colon, rectal, pancreatic, gastric, esophageal, hepatobiliary, and anal cancers. We translate these findings into clinical research programs to improve GI cancer diagnosis, treatment, and symptom management and support and advance the development of clinicians and research scientists.
Our research program has key research themes:
- the relationship between the human microbiome, diet, and cancer through large multidisciplinary prospective studies
- the role of Ras protein in cell proliferation and oncogenic transformation in pancreatic cancer
- an exploration of the complex metabolic relationships between pancreatic cancer cells and the stromal microenvironment
- targeting vulnerabilities in the DNA damage response in GI cancers
- immunity and tumor immunology and investigation of novel approaches to reverse cancer immune suppression
- methods for early detection of pancreatic cancer and novel biomarker discovery
Gastrointestinal Cancer Basic and Translational Science Research
Based on work from the laboratory of Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, which demonstrated that KRAS-mutated cells are uniquely vulnerable to DNA damage, we have designed and activated a clinical trial for KRAS-mutated advanced colorectal cancer.
Research in the lab of George Miller, MD, using a pancreatic cancer mouse model, found that radiation treatment causes macrophages to acquire an immune-suppressive phenotype and disabled T cell–mediated anti-tumor responses that could be reversed with MCSF blockade. This increases the efficacy of radiation in slowing tumor growth. We are designing a clinical trial to test the combination of radiation therapy and CSF1R inhibition for the treatment of locally advanced pancreatic cancer.
We are designing a clinical study to evaluate the combination of antibiotic and immune checkpoint inhibition in resectable pancreatic cancer. It is based on research by Dr. Miller’s laboratory that demonstrates a distinct microbiome in pancreatic cancer that promotes oncogenesis by induction of innate and adaptive immune suppression.
We also have plans for several research projects:
- a multidisciplinary project to study gut microbiota, tumor and host immunity, and colon cancer outcomes in stage II and III patients
- a comparison of molecular determinants of long-term pancreatic cancer survivors compared with early progressors
- a collaboration with radiology and nuclear medicine on novel imaging markers of tumor response and resistance
Gastrointestinal Cancer Clinical Trials
Our patients have opportunities to participate in innovative and promising clinical trials in GI cancers, including colorectal, esophageal, pancreatic, gastric, liver, and anal cancers. Our focus is on cooperative group trials, targeted therapies, and immunotherapies.
Our current research priorities include investigator-initiated and industry-sponsored clinical trials that use combination therapies to treat people with gastrointestinal cancers. We also evaluate novel biologic tumor markers that may predict prognosis of gastrointestinal cancers treated with chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy. We evaluate novel radiologic markers, such as MRI- and PET/CT-based radiomic approaches, that may predict prognosis of gastrointestinal cancers treated with chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy.
We are prioritizing two pancreatic cancer trials: Precision Promise, offered through the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, is the first adaptive clinical trial platform offering pancreatic cancer patients new treatments, including immunotherapy and cancer stroma disruption; and the Stand Up To Cancer–Lustgarten Foundation’s innovative pancreatic cancer trial that incorporates tumor microenvironment modulation and immunotherapy in combination with chemotherapy and radiation in pancreatic cancers.