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Vanderbilt Surgical Oncology and Endocrine Surgery
597 Preston Research Building
2220 Pierce Avenue
Nashville, TN 37232
Phone: (615) 322-2391
Fax: (615) 936-6535


The Division has an extensive basic research program that emphasizes molecular biology and conducts department-sponsored and federally sponsored research in several areas. The basic science research programs of each faculty member are as follows:

  • R. Daniel Beauchamp, MD

The Beauchamp research lab focuses on the role of TGFb signaling in colorectal cancer, particularly in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process necessary for tumor invasion. The lab uses multiple approaches to understanding these pathways including patient tumor analyses, drug discovery, mouse models of tumorigenesis, and cell and molecular biology. These studies have led to:

  1. identification of tumor gene signatures that predict worse clinical outcome and that are enriched in EMT markers
  2. identification of a novel small molecule that inhibits EMT and tumor growth, utilizing large-scale screens of small molecules and iterative chemistry to improve efficacy of this compound
  3. discovery of a link between TGFb signaling and chemokine release that promotes inflammation-induced tumorigenesis in mouse genetic models. We constantly interweave these different approaches to enable vertical leaps in our understanding of how CRC develops and how it can be better treated clinically.

Anna Means
Research Associate Professor

  • Wael El-Rifai, MD, PhD

Wael El-Rifai is a H. William Scott Jr. Chair in Surgery, Professor of Surgery, and Professor of Cancer Biology. He is the Director of the Surgical Oncology Research Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. His research utilizes advanced molecular functional genomic approaches for the discovery of novel genes and networks for a better understanding of the process of carcinogenesis with a prospective translational end point in mind. Dr. El-Rifai leads a competitively NCI-funded research program in the areas of gastric cancer, Barretts esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. He has a long-standing interest in understanding the modulation of molecular pathways through genetic and epigenetic events. Dr. El-Rifai has published more than 150 research articles in highly cited peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Clinical Oncology, Proceedings of National Academy of Science, Cancer Research, Oncogene, and Gastroenterology.

Click here for a Complete List of Published Work in My Bibliography

Wael El-Rifai, MD, PhD
Director, Surgical Oncology Research Program

  • Ingrid Meszoely, MD
    DPC4 replacement gene therapy in pancreatic cancer.
  • Ana Grau, MD
    TGF-beta and Ras signaling in breast cancer.

Each faculty member is also involved in a wide variety of clinical and translational research projects, some of which are conducted as a part of our SPORE grants in GI and breast cancer. There are also a wide variety of projects in all areas of basic cancer biology which are being conducted by faculty members in other clinical and basic science departments.