The University of Colorado Cancer Center is excited to announce that the “interim” title before Christopher Lieu, MD, has been removed making him the Associate Director of Clinical Research. Dr. Lieu was in the interim role for 8 months before being named the associate director. Dr. Lieu, who is also the director of the gastrointestinal medical oncology program, joined the CU School of Medicine faculty in 2011. For the past nine years Dr. Lieu has been an investigator on numerous CU Cancer Center studies, including taking the lead on early-onset colorectal cancer research. Dr. Lieu received the National Cancer Institute Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award in 2017. Additionally, Dr. Lieu is the Vice-Chair of the National Cancer Institute Colon Cancer Task Force and on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Panel for Neuroendocrine Cancers.

Dr. Christopher Lieu, MD

“Chris has been an invaluable part of the cancer center since the start,” says Richard Schulick, MD, MBA, Director of the CU Cancer Center and Chair of the Department of Surgery. “I speak on behalf of the entire faculty when I say that I am thrilled to have him as the AD of clinical research.”

In his own words: Chris Lieu, MD

“When I was in medical school thinking about different medical subspecialties, I found the field of oncology completely fascinating. Like so many others, cancer has had a significant impact on my family. Oncology represented an opportunity to truly get to know our patients and play an integral and critical role in their care. The patient relationships you develop in oncology are incredibly different than other subspecialties. Oncology is also the fastest changing field in medicine and one of the greatest areas of opportunity to make a significant impact. It is a very unique pairing of outstanding patient care and rapidly pushing the boundaries of medical knowledge to bring better and more promising therapies to patients who desperately need more effective treatments. 

My passion for gastrointestinal cancers started in residency. I always say that the things you know impact what you may like. My mentor, Gail Eckhardt, MD, was an oncologist who specialized in gastrointestinal (GI) cancers (colorectal cancer specifically) and early drug development. She taught me a tremendous amount about patient care and clinical and translational research. When I did my fellowship training at MD Anderson, I had the opportunity to work with another mentor, Scott Kopetz, MD, who also specialized in colorectal cancer, and that pretty much sealed my fate as a GI medical oncologist. Much like my decision to do oncology, the field of GI malignancies paired incredible patient care with exciting new targeted therapies. 

One of the best aspects of my job? The constant movement and developments. Like most of the field of oncology, the field of GI cancers has changed dramatically in the past ten years.  The ability to start personalizing therapy for GI cancers has really taken off in an amazing way. It’s also staggering how much we don’t know, but the advancements in the past ten years has helped us choose better and more targeted therapies for our patients. It will be interesting if we can really move away from the traditional “one-size-fits-all” strategy and really push the field towards much more personalized therapies including targeted and immunotherapies. 

I am extremely excited to be the Associate Director of Clinical Research at the CU Cancer Center. The reason why there are so many of us that choose academic medicine is that we want to be part of changing our field and improving the lives of our patients and their caregivers. Clinical research represents the culmination of many years of basic science research. The clinical application of what we have learned in the lab is an incredibly exciting thing to be a part of. Anytime you have an opportunity to potentially make cancer clinical research more effective, more efficient, cheaper and faster, I think that’s a job you would always want to take. I’m also very excited about working with the cancer center clinical research lead team and the cancer center executive committee. These teams are truly dedicated to the mission of the cancer center and are wonderfully fun and talented teams to work with!

I believe our cancer center is in a very exciting phase of growth and investment. There is so much talent, skill and expertise that exists on this campus, and I hope to be able to provide our incredible researchers with the ability to conduct outstanding clinical investigations that change our patients’ lives and puts our cancer center and university into even greater national prominence.”