Pancreas and Biliary Tumor Center Research

Research and Innovation

Our experts in each specialty are leaders in their respective fields, regularly publishing their discoveries about underlying disease mechanisms, surgical and radiation techniques, new therapies, and approaches to early detection.

We study the biology of these diseases, learning how a tumor develops, what sustains its growth, and how to halt that growth. This extensive work to understand the biology of pancreaticobiliary cancer then translates into new approaches to diagnose, treat, and prevent these diseases. Our patients have extensive opportunities to participate in these research studies, including clinical trials of new treatments.

Our Specialists at Work

Thomas Abrams, MD

Medical oncologist Thomas Abrams, MD, focuses on understanding optimal treatment strategies for patients with pancreatic and biliary cancer. As part of this work, he is conducting an ongoing analysis of a large patient database from around the United States, to fully understand which chemotherapies patients with pancreatic cancer currently receive, and the implications for how we can improve patient care. This work was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill.

Andrew Aguirre, MD, PhD

Andrew Aguirre, MD, PhD, is a medical oncologist researching what factors cooperate with KRAS to promote pancreatic cancer growth. The goal of this work is to identify new strategies to treat pancreatic cancer in the Clinic. See a description of a project conducted by Dr. Aguirre that was awarded a Samuel Stroum Pancreatic Cancer Action Network/AACR Fellowship. Dr. Aguirre is also a recipient of a Conquer Cancer Foundation Young Investigator Award.

Stanley W. Ashley, MD

Stanley W. Ashley, MD, is Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs at Brigham and Women's Hospital, as well as the Frank Sawyer Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Ashley is a gastrointestinal surgeon whose primary interests are diseases of the pancreas and inflammatory bowel disease. His research, which has been funded by both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health, has examined the pathophysiology of the pancreas and small bowel. His clinical research has examined both necrotizing pancreatitis and pancreatic neoplasia. His focus recently is on practical aspects of surgical quality and value and how these can be applied to improve outcomes. Dr. Ashley is the author of over 300 publications.

Peter Banks, MD

Gastroenterologist Peter Banks, MD, is a leading authority on the management and consequences of acute and chronic pancreatitis, including their impact on the development of pancreatic cysts and cancer. He has written extensively on these topics, with more than 200 published papers. See his recent reviews of acute pancreatitis published in Gastroenterology and Gut.

Ying Bao, PhD

Ying Bao, PhD, is an epidemiologist who studies the influence of diet and lifestyle factors on the risk of pancreatic cancer. Read about her research examining the impact of nut consumption (British Journal of Cancer) and the circulating hormone adiponectin (Journal of the National Cancer Institute) on the development of pancreatic cancer in large patient populations. Dr. Bao continues to use the tools of population science to understand why some individuals develop pancreatic cancer, while others do not.

David Barbie, MD

Medical oncologist David Barbie, MD, is working in the laboratory to identify new targets for cancer therapy, with a specific focus on targeting KRASmutations that are present in the vast majority of pancreatic and biliary cancers. This mutation has made pancreas and biliary cancer cells resistant to many therapies, and Dr. Barbie's work has identified a new vulnerability of these cells to specific targeted treatments. He has recently published some of this work in the prestigious journal, Cancer Discovery. Together with Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center medical oncologist Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, he is now directly applying these findings to the care of our patients by designing clinical trials that include targeted drugs which attack this newly identified vulnerability. Also see Dr. Barbie's recent overview of new approaches to targeting KRAS-mutant tumors in Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy.

Jennifer Chan, MD, MPH

Jennifer Chan, MD, MPH, is a medical oncologist, with a clinical and research focus on pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. She leads numerous trials specifically for patients with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, and has published extensively on novel therapeutic approaches for this disease. See her recent papers describing these new treatment approaches published in Cancer and the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Thomas E. Clancy, MD

Oncologist and Center Co-Director Thomas E. Clancy, MD, has worked as an investigator and collaborator on numerous translational and clinical research projects in pancreaticobiliary disease focusing on novel biomarkers in pancreatic cancer and surgical outcomes. His work has demonstrated the safety of multi-organ resection in the context of pancreatic surgery. He has published numerous book chapters on pancreatic cancer, hepatobiliary diseases, and pancreatic disease.

James Cleary, MD, PhD

James Cleary, MD, PhD, is a medical oncologist who leads the treatment of patients with gastrointestinal cancers in the Center for Cancer Therapeutic Innovation at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center. He is leading multiple early-stage clinical trials using experimental drugs to identify new ways to treat pancreatic and biliary cancers. See a recent clinical trial published by Dr. Cleary in Investigational New Drugs, adding a new targeted agent to gemcitabine, a chemotherapy commonly used for patients with pancreatic and biliary cancer.

Kunal Jajoo, MD

Kunal Jajoo, MD, is a gastroenterologist specializing in advanced endoscopic procedures. Dr. Jajoo's clinical expertise is in advanced procedures that include endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), enteral stenting, and other therapeutic endoscopic procedures. His major responsibilities and contributions focus on excellent patient care in advanced therapeutic endoscopy and post-graduate education and mentorship of gastroenterology fellows. Dr. Jajoo has been named to the Endoscopy Leadership Committee and the Endoscopy Steering Committee to develop patient policies and procedures related to advanced endoscopic procedures and to improve quality measures in general endoscopy.

Linda Lee, MD

Gastroenterologist Linda Lee, MD, is an expert in advanced endoscopy techniques for diagnosis and management of pancreaticobiliary tumors. Her research interest is focused on the evaluation and treatment of pancreatic cystic lesions. See her recent review articles on advanced endoscopy techniques published in Radiologic Clinics of North America, and on the management of pancreaticobiliary cystic lesions published in Gastroenterology Research and Practice.

Harvey Mamon, MD, PhD

Radiation oncologist Harvey Mamon, MD, PhD, is the clinical director of radiation oncology at the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center and spearheads research activities focused on optimizing the combination of radiation with systemic therapies. He has identified biomarkers for the response to treatment and has run several large national trials involving patients with pancreatic and biliary cancer, including CALGB 80003, published in Cancer.

Joseph Mancias, MD, PhD

The research of Joseph Mancias, MD, PhD, focuses on critical aspects of the biology of pancreatic cancer, including selective autophagy, iron metabolism, and therapeutic resistance in order to develop novel therapeutic approaches. His lab takes a comprehensive approach combining biochemical, quantitative mass spectrometry-based proteomic, gene editing, cell biological, and advanced modeling techniques to further our understanding of pancreatic cancer.

Mandar Muzumdar, MD

Mandar Muzumdar, MD, is a medical oncologist studying factors in the laboratory that enhance pancreatic cancer growth. See a recent talk by Dr. Muzumdar highlighting the opportunities and challenges of research in pancreatic cancer. Dr. Muzumdar is a recipient of a Conquer Cancer Foundation Young Investigator Award.

Sahar Nissim, MD, PhD

Sahar Nissim, MD, PhD, is a gastroenterologist and member of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention, with expertise in hereditary cancer syndromes. Dr. Nissim conducts research on pancreas development and pancreatic cancer. A major goal of his research is to identify and characterize new genes responsible for familial pancreatic cancer, discoveries that could be used for earlier diagnosis and new treatment strategies in pancreatic cancer. His paper in Developmental Cell identified a role for prostaglandins in pancreas organ formation that may also impact pancreatic cancer. Dr. Nissim's work has been funded by the National Pancreas Foundation. He recently received a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists for his research.

Michael Rosenthal, MD, PhD

Michael Rosenthal, MD, PhD, is a diagnostic radiologist with expertise in the complex imaging studies necessary for accurate diagnosis and staging of pancreaticobiliary cancer. He studies ways to develop and validate prognostic models that use cancer imaging findings and related clinical data to estimate individual patient outcomes. 

Douglas Rubinson, MD, PhD

Douglas Rubinson, MD, PhD, is a medical oncologist leading an effort to genetically profile pancreatic cancers and understand how genetic alterations impact cancer recurrence and progression. He is doing this work in collaboration with scientists in the Center for Cancer Genomics at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The goal of these studies is to achieve a truly personalized approach to pancreatic cancer treatment based upon the genetic profile of a patient's tumor. Also in a paper in The Oncologist, co-authored by Dr. Rubinson and showing the first clinical trial of autophagy inhibition in patients with pancreatic cancer. This is a new treatment strategy based upon ongoing studies in Alec Kimmelman, MD, PhD's laboratory at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center.

Ramesh Shivdasani, MD, PhD

Medical oncologist and laboratory investigator Ramesh Shivdasani, MD, PhD, studies cell differentiation in the gastrointestinal tract and new targets for treatment of gastrointestinal tumors. His recent study published in Oncogene implicates high expression of GATA6 in malignant behavior of stomach and pancreatic cancers. His ongoing work continues to define how this and other transcription factors promote tumorigenesis and malignant growth of gastrointestinal cancers.

Paul Shyn, MD

Paul Shyn, MD, is a diagnostic radiologist specializing in abdominal imaging and related interventional radiology procedures. His clinical and research interests include medical imaging of gastrointestinal cancers, as well as advanced image-guide biopsy and tumor ablation procedures. Dr. Shyn teaches and publishes on the use of imaging technologies ranging from ultrasound and CT to MRI and PET/CT in the performance of interventional radiology procedures.

Sapna Syngal, MD, MPH

Gastroenterologist Sapna Syngal, MD, MPH, is director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Genetics and Prevention Clinic at the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention, and an international expert in familial syndromes of pancreatic cancer. Her research focuses on genetic testing and screening approaches to diagnose pancreaticobiliary cancer early in families at high risk for these diseases. She is Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center's investigator for the CAPS5 Cancer of the Pancreas Screening Consortium study, a national study directed toward defining the optimal screening strategies for pancreatic cancer-prone families. Read her study on Risk of Pancreatic Cancer in Families with Lynch Syndrome, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Also see herreview article published in Gastroenterology describing important issues in hereditary pancreatic cancer.

Brian M. Wolpin, MD, MPH

The research program of medical oncologist and Center Co-Director Brian M. Wolpin, MD, MPH, focuses on understanding the factors that promote the development and growth of pancreatic and biliary cancer. His studies involve large-scale analyses of samples donated by hundreds to thousands of patients, with evaluation of factors in blood, inherited DNA changes, and DNA changes in tumors. The goal of his group's work is to define new ways to diagnose pancreaticobiliary tumors early, and to treat them more effectively by targeting specific changes in individual tumors.

Dr. Wolpin's research has been funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Lustgarten Foundation, the ASCO Conquer Cancer Foundation, Promises for Purple, and the U.S. Department of Defense. His work has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Gastroenterology, Nature Genetics, Nature Medicine, and the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Wolpin serves as Principal Investigator for the Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium, a National Cancer Institute consortium of more than 30 studies from around the world dedicated to understanding the causes of pancreatic cancer. He also directs a large pancreatic cancer specimen bank, which archives and analyzes blood and tumor specimens from patients at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center and other institutions around the United States.

Dr. Wolpin serves on the Alliance/CALGB Gastrointestinal Cancer Committee, which sets national clinical trial priorities for pancreatic and biliary cancer. In addition, he serves on the NCCN Guidelines Committee for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma, which sets guidelines used around the world for the standard treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer.

Matt Yurgelun, MD

Matt Yurgelun, MD, is a medical oncologist and member of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention, with expertise in pancreatic cancer. He studies hereditary cancer syndromes, including Lynch syndrome. His recently published journal article Therapy-Associated Polyposis as a Late Sequela of Cancer Treatment shows that survivors of childhood cancers are at increased risk of developing secondary gastrointestinal cancers.