General and Gastrointestinal Surgery Research

General and gastrointestinal surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are renowned scientific researchers who are involved in a range of surgical and multi-modality, disease-specific clinical research. Research projects have resulted in revolutionary advances in surgery, such as modern intravenous (IV) therapy, modern blood banking equipment and optimal nutritional treatment for burn surgery patients.

Research in general and gastrointestinal surgery involves interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration among researchers at BWH and other scientists in the Boston area, throughout the United States and around the world. Together, we have built an integrated research effort among multiple disciplines each contributing to surgical innovations.

Clinical Trials

Select patients have the opportunity to participate in investigational clinical trials that study the safety and effectiveness of new treatment approaches for specific diseases. Cancer patients have direct access to the latest research-based treatments and clinical trials through our role in the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), a National Cancer Institute-funded consortium comprised of seven member institutions: Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children's Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Research Study Examples

Research projects, including clinical trials focus on:

  • Colorectal cancers
  • Sarcomas
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Liver and biliary duct cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • New targeted cancer treatments using novel biologic drugs
  • Tissue analysis and typing to develop biomarkers for prognosis and diagnosis in cancer
  • Investigating new devices to aid in treatment, localization and tumor excision
  • Protocols to reduce post-operative stay and promote recovery
  • Quality of life studies aimed to improve lifestyle and reduce morbidities before and after surgery
  • New, more precise surgical approaches using the AMIGO suite
  • Characterization of the tumor genetic structure and function with emphasis on developing new therapies.

General and Gastrointestinal Surgery Researchers

Stanley W. Ashley, MD

  • Examining the physiological regulation of the intestinal sodium transporter SGLT1 in health and disease, to help develop novel therapeutic approaches for altering intestinal absorptive capacity of glucose in disease states such as obesity and diabetes

Ronald Bleday, MD

  • Tumor bank accrual: 316 total since GI tumor bank inception (26.4% of total).
  • American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (ACOSOG) local excision study
  • Stool-based biomarker research study
  • Laparoscopic vs open colectomy study

Elizabeth Breen, MD

  • Evaluation of teaching the goals of the core clerkship in surgery in an operating room setting
  • Spaced education to promote teaching skills of surgery residents
  • Career patterns of women surgeons

Atul Gawande, MD, MPH

  • Ariadne Labs includes testing implementation of safe childbirth coaching and checklist intervention in North India to reduce neonatal and maternal death
  • Roll-out of a suite of systems tools for improvement of surgical safety and outcomes across the United States
  • Randomized trial in collaboration with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to improve care and decision-making for patients at the end of life

Aldebaran Hofer, PhD

  • Crosstalk between two fundamental second messenger systems: Ca2+ and cyclic AMP (cAMP)

Malcolm Kenneth Robinson, MD

Brent Shoji, MD

  • Gastrosplenic fistula from Hodgkin's Disease

Douglas S. Smink, MD, MPH

  • Surgical simulation and resident education using both simulated and real OR environments to teach teamwork, communication, leadership and decision-making to surgeons.

Ali Tavakkoli, MD

  • NIH-funded research group that focuses on identifying novel approaches to modulate intestinal nutrient transport to treat obesity and diabetes

Ashley Haralson Vernon, MD

  • Large clinical trial investigating the impact of bariatric surgery on patient health

Edward E. Whang, MD

  • Identification and validation of novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets in gastrointestinal malignancies, especially pancreatic cancer
  • Development of strategies for optimizing intestinal regeneration and surgical education

We Need Your Help

Your contributions to our research will provide even better care for the next generation of patients and their families. Your contributions can be directed toward:

  • Improving the role of surgery to improve patient outcomes
  • Improving surgical processes, techniques and protocols
  • Improving recovery after surgery
  • Understanding the needs of surgery patients

Support Our Work

Learn how you can support our general and gastrointestinal research projects.


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