Gastrointestinal Cancer


Overview & Treatment

Tina Calon
Tina Escalona

Duke Cancer Institute's Gastrointestinal Cancer disease group applies the findings of our labs to our clinical practices — continually improving the outcomes of our patients.

We treat colorectal cancer (colon and rectal), esophageal cancerstomach (gastric) cancer, anal cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma), gallbladder cancer, and neuroendocrine cancer.

Patients with GI cancers benefit from our refined approaches to risk assessment, advances to improve responses to existing treatments, and the development of more effective treatments.

Our physicians specialize in the treatment of aggressive and complex GI cancers. The best approach for our patients depends on the tumor type, stage, and personal goals.

One or more of the following therapies may be recommended:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Interventional Radiology
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted Therapies



Our Gastrointestinal Cancer disease group is advancing translational research to bring about new treatments, improve the effectiveness of current treatments, and prevent or lessen treatment side effects.

Preclinical & Translational Research

Our physician scientists bring together clinical, translational and basic research to identify mechanisms of sensitivity, resistance, and toxicity to anti-cancer therapies.

Gerald Blobe, MD, PhD, is the lead physician-scientist engaged in preclinical research.  

David Hsu, MD, PhD (Hsu Lab); Michael Morse, MD; Brent Hanks, MD, PhD (Hanks Lab); and Nicholas Devito, MD (Hanks Lab); are physician-scientists engaged in translational research. Andrew Nixon, PhD (Phase 1 Biomarker Laboratory) is the lead scientist engaged in translational research.  

Michael Morse, MD, and H. Kim Lyerly, MD, are leading preclinical and translational research into potential cancer vaccines.

Michael Morse and Gayathri Devi, PhD, are leading research into therapies to kill cancer cells by enhancing the body’s immune response.

The Hanks Lab, led by Brent Hanks, MD, PhD, works to develop novel strategies to enhance the efficacy of checkpoint inhibitor and vaccine immunotherapy while also developing predictive biomarkers to better guide the management of cancer patients with immunotherapeutic agents. The lab's work in gastrointestinal cancers is currently focused on understanding the mechanisms behind immune tolerance and immunotherapy resistance.  

The Hsu Lab, led by David Hsu, MD, PhD, is working on the identification, characterization and validation of novel drug targets for colorectal cancer and other GI cancers and engaged in defining the role of epigenetic profiling of colorectal cancer in drug resistance and the immune system. 

The Phase 1 Biomarker Laboratory, directed by Andrew Nixon, PhD, has been appointed as a Molecular Reference Laboratory for the Alliance oncology cooperative group, a national clinical trial research group sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.

Clinical & Correlative Research 

We have an experienced team made up of physician-scientists, nurses, and in-patient staff as well as specialists engaged in protocol development and clinical trial registration.

Our clinical research focuses on esophageal/GE/gastric cancer (Hope Uronis, MD); hepatobiliary cancers (Michael Morse, MD and Caron Jia, MD, PhD); neuroendocrine cancer (Michael Morse, MD); pancreatic cancer (James Abbruzzese, MD, and Niharika Mettu, MD); and colorectal cancer (John Strickler, MD, and David Hsu, MD, PhD. 

Health Services Research

Our Center for Applied Cancer Health Policy, led by physician-scientist Yousuf Zafar, MD, MHS, investigates affordability and value of care, oncology reimbursement and care redesign, and behavioral science in cost and value. 

We collaborate in health services research with Duke University’s Margolis Center for Health Policy, Duke Forge (Health Data Science Center), Fuqua School of Business, and the Sanford School of Public Policy. 

Clinical Trials

We have many gastrointestinal cancer trials open, including for colorectal cancer and cancers of the stomach, esophagus, and other digestive organs.


If you need additional information about any of the trials listed or would like to inquire about other open trials, please contact the Gastrointestinal (GI) Clinical Trials Office at 919.668.1861.

Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialists

We discover, develop and deliver the future of cancer care . . . now.

James Abbruzzese, MD
Neeraj Agrawal, MD
Gerard Blobe, MD, PhD
Nicholas Devito, MD
Evan Dropkin, PA-C
Deanna Griffie, MSN, AGNP-BC
David Hsu, MD, PhD
Niharika Mettu, MD, PhD
Michael Morse, MD, FACP, MHS
Paula Kennedy-Newton, MSN, AGNP-C
Margot O'Neill, PA-C, MHS
Riddhish Shah, MD, PhD
Melissa Smith, PA-C
John Strickler, MD
Carolyn Tashie, PA-C, MHS
Hope Uronis, MD, MHS
Sean Wang, MD, MPH

Kara Threatt, MSN, ANP, RN
Sabino Zani Jr., MD

Brian Czito, MD
John Nelson, MD
Manisha Palta, MD
Christopher Willett, MD