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Cancer Research: Meet Dr. Marios Giannakis

Posted on April 25, 2014

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Scientific research is among the best ways we can go on the offensive against colon cancer. That’s why we’ve launched the Blue Hope Research Award, a one-year fellowship providing vital resources and funding to a bright investigator interested in making his mark in the colon cancer space. This year, we utilized the American Association for Cancer Research peer-review process to select a scientist who is taking a deeper look at biomarkers associated with treatment of colon cancer. We’re honored to introduce Marios Giannakis, M.D., Ph.D., our first-ever Blue Hope Research Awardee. Learn more about the research he’s working on and what it means for you!

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Who is Dr. Giannakis?

Thank you again for this wonderful honor and opportunity. At 35 years old, I am a physician-scientist currently working at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and performing colorectal cancer research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. I was born and raised in Greece, but left after high school to pursue my undergraduate studies in molecular biology and molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, Canada. I then completed my M.D and Ph.D degrees at Washington University in Saint Louis and came to Boston for my Internal Medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and my medical oncology fellowship at the DFCI. I am fortunate to be conducting research under the expert mentorship of Drs. Levi Garraway, MD, PhD and Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH and director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at DFCI. I maintain a clinic (which I love) but the majority of my time is currently spent in the laboratory.

It has always been the interactions with individuals and the families affected by cancer that has motivated my research endeavors; the need to find more, better and less toxic treatments for everyone touched by this disease is clear. This is especially true in colorectal cancer, where many patients go through the limited chemotherapy regimens available with a lot of life, fight and desire to go on to the next step.

At the same time, there has not been a more exciting time in cancer research in terms of what we can understand about tumors and their biology. I love what I do because I believe the colorectal cancer research we are performing at the DFCI and Broad Institute has the potential to help create better therapies, supporting those affected by cancer. I cannot think of a better accomplishment than having the privilege of taking care of people with cancer and being successful in research to better fight this disease.

Marios pic stitchCan you tell us about the research the Blue Hope Research Award is supporting?

In medicine, we have always known that every patient is unique and deserves an individualized approach; we now have the ability to appreciate how each tumor is different and can utilize that information to create personalized treatments. Our research involves the genomic characterization of more than 1,000 colorectal cancers; this means discovering the differences in tumors at a molecular level and uncovering how these changes are affecting tumor growth and biology so we can ultimately prescribe the best and more effective treatment plan for a patient’s cancer.

Our goals for the project generously funded by this award are two-fold. First, through this extensive genomic sequencing effort, we aim to discover previously unappreciated genes that are abnormal (mutated) and important for colorectal tumors. This will lead to the development and use of smart drugs targeting these cancers that would be uniquely suited for patients with these cancer mutations. Second, since the samples we are analyzing have extensive clinical information associated with them, we can match multiple factors (lifestyle, diet, drugs, etc.) to the genetic make-up of these tumors and figure out how these factors affect specific subtypes of colorectal cancer.

We hope our research will be used in the clinic very soon and we have already obtained some exciting findings that have the potential to inform clinical trials for patients with colorectal cancer.

What are you most excited about with this opportunity?

The Blue Hope Research Award will support our research toward understanding the biology and discovering new biomarkers in colorectal cancer, with the goal of developing and using novel, more effective, and less toxic, therapies for patients with this disease. I personally appreciate the opportunity to continue on this journey of being a physician-scientist caring for and working toward discovering better treatments for those affected by this disease. 

How You Can Help

We’re looking for sponsors and donors to support this and other critical research initiatives. To learn more, contact Nicole Sheahan, Vice President of Development, at (202) 628-0123 ext. 103 or nsheahan@ccalliance.org or donate to the Research Fund.

Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have additional questions about screening or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help! 

One Response to “Cancer Research: Meet Dr. Marios Giannakis”

  1. Sue Byrum says:

    Hello, I have colorectal cancer. I’m in the middle of this fight. I’m not making much progress in getting help with programs that help with gas and copay helps. Or any other programs yet. Do you have any one that can help me? I had to bee admitted, after only 2 days of chemo, for heart failure. Money is extremely tight. My husband uhhand I are both on disability, from 10 spine surgeries. Are there any grants, ext ?? Available. I’ll be admitted again on
    4/19 for a week of chemo, given in the coronary unit, for safety this time. Thankyou for all your work in this area!

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