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GI Cancer Treatments

Gastrointestinal cancer treatment requires medical expertise and teamwork. At the Abramson Cancer Center, a dedicated team of doctors and support professionals focuses solely on caring for these complex diseases. Fellowship-trained specialists collaborate closely to customize every treatment plan.

GI Cancer Treatment: The Penn Medicine Advantage

Cancers that affect organs of the digestive system (such as the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, biliary tree, liver, colon and rectum) can be challenging to treat. Our renowned specialists understand the finer points of complex treatment decisions. We never lose sight of the reason we come to work every day: helping you live longer and better.

Our GI cancer program offers:

  • Meticulous teamwork: At Penn, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons, pathologists and radiologists meet regularly to review your test results and weigh in on the right plan for you. Cancer surgeons often work alongside other surgical specialists to perform highly technical procedures and remove GI cancers safely and effectively. Meet our GI cancer specialists.
  • Fast access to treatment: Our GI oncology nurse and patient navigators get you to the right doctor at the right time, so you can start treatment quickly. We help you see multiple specialists on the same day, so you can spend less time in appointments and more time on what matters to you.
  • Innovative therapies: We use precision medicine to tailor therapies to cancer cells’ DNA. Studying your tumor’s genetic profile and tailoring your treatment is the highest form of precision medicine. We also offer a full spectrum of the most advanced and innovative cancer treatments.
  • Clinical trial options: Penn participates in the most clinical trials in the region. Our physicians and scientists are on the front lines of exciting research exploring cancer drugs that harness the power of the body’s immune system (immunotherapy) for pancreatic, colon and other GI cancers. We offer options and hope for all GI cancer types and stages of disease. Read about our GI cancer research.
  • Comprehensive support: We work hard to help you understand your diagnosis and treatment options. At Penn, you have access to a full array of GI cancer support services that prioritize your whole health. Our easy-to-use patient portal gets you fast answers to questions about treatment side effects or other concerns.
  • Care close to home: Our coordination across Abramson Cancer Center locations means you receive high-quality care close to home.

GI Cancer Treatment Options

GI cancer treatment often involves multiple therapies, such as surgery plus chemotherapy or chemotherapy plus radiation – or all three. Your care team will develop a treatment plan personalized to your goals. Your plan may include:

Surgery for GI Cancer

Surgery is an effective treatment for many GI cancers. Our GI cancer team includes national and international leaders in the field who remove hard-to-treat cancers other centers can’t. We have extraordinary expertise that comes from performing very high volumes of pancreatic, liver and esophageal cancer surgeries.

We always take the least invasive surgical approach possible. And we’ve developed enhanced recovery protocols that help you recover more quickly and feel better sooner after surgery. Learn more about GI cancer surgery.

Radiation Oncology

Radiation therapy uses powerful beams of energy to destroy cancer cells. Penn has one of the country’s largest radiation therapy departments, with advanced treatment options for gastrointestinal tumors. Our team specializes in treating all types of tumors in the GI tract while protecting sensitive organs, blood vessels, and nerves.

We are experts in proton therapy and stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) for hard-to-treat tumors, such as liver tumors. We also have national expertise in palliative radiotherapy to manage cancer pain and other symptoms. Read more about radiation oncology at Penn.

Medical Oncology

Penn medical oncologists may use intravenous (IV) or oral medications to treat GI cancer cells throughout the body. Our doctors may recommend cancer-fighting drugs before surgery (to make surgery more successful) or after surgery (to kill any remaining cancer cells in the body). We always choose the most effective medication with the fewest side effects, so you have fewer side effects.

Your doctor may recommend one or multiple medical oncology treatments, such as:

Interventional Radiology Therapies

Our interventional radiologists specialize in treating liver cancer using minimally invasive techniques. Interventional radiology procedures such as chemoembolization, radioembolization and tumor ablation treat cancer by delivering therapies directly to a tumor. Read more about interventional radiology.

GI Cancer Clinical Trials

Clinical trials can be an important part of GI cancer treatment. A clinical trial may offer you the chance to try innovative therapies (such as targeted cancer drugs, immunotherapy or proton therapy) or new treatment combinations. Your doctor will explain whether a clinical trial at Penn is right for you. Find out about GI cancer clinical trials.

Metastatic GI Cancer Treatments

Metastatic cancer happens when cancer cells spread beyond the location where cancer first developed. Chemotherapy is often the primary treatment for metastatic GI cancer. In certain cases, surgery, radiotherapy or other therapies may be appropriate.

At Penn Medicine, we also offer specialized therapies for metastatic cancers, including:

  • HIPEC (heated/hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy): This surgical procedure delivers a strong dose of chemotherapy directly to tumors in the peritoneum (abdominal cavity). It is usually performed at the same time as tumor removal surgery. Penn was one of the first centers in the region to offer HIPEC.
  • Hepatic artery infusion pump: This surgically implanted pump treats liver tumors by delivering a powerful dose of chemotherapy medication right to the liver. We are the only center in the Philadelphia region with the expertise and special equipment to offer this therapy.

Request an Appointment

Call 215-615-5858 to speak with one of our GI cancer experts. You can also request an appointment using our online form.