Skip to navigation Skip to content

Site Search

Physicians & Staff

Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., FACS

Bank of America-endowed medical director, Helen F. Graham Cancer Center

Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., FACS

Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., a nationally recognized expert on colorectal cancer, joined Christiana Care Health System as the Bank of America-endowed medical director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Research Insitute in August 2001. As medical director, Dr. Petrelli oversees the state’s largest and most technologically advanced cancer program, including cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment. Some of his leadership initiatives since he arrived at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center include:

  • Selection as a National Cancer Institute Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP) – one of 14 cancer programs the NCI chose to launch a strategic initiative that will greatly extend access to NCI-sponsored clinical trials around the country.
  • Establishing cancer multidisciplinary centers, where patients can see a surgeon, a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist, all in one visit, concerning treatment for specific types of cancer; and have onsite access to a wide range of support services.
  • Involvement in the Early Lung Cancer Action Project (ELCAP), including a study of a screening technique using a low-dose computerized tomography (CT) scan to identify lung cancer earlier and improve the lives of Delawareans at risk for developing the disease.
  • Participation in the Cancer Genome Atlas Project.
  • Establishing the first Statewide High Risk Family Cancer Registry of 2,500 families and over 200,000 persons, made possible with the recruitment of 5 genetic counselors.
  • Development of and participation in a monthly oncology videoconference designed to create a statewide conference between the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and other Delaware cancer care providers to discuss difficult oncology management cases.

Dr. Petrelli came to Christiana Care from one of the nation’s leading cancer programs, Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, where he led several clinical trials for a promising form of chemotherapy, was chair of the Department of Surgical Oncology and served as director of the Surgical Oncology Fellowship training program. He has conducted substantial research into the genetics of colorectal cancer and co-authored several papers on the subject, which are among more than 250 manuscripts that he has contributed to peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Petrelli is an associate editor for the Annals of Surgical Oncology and editor of the Surgical Oncology Clinics of North America. He also is the co-editor of Surgical Oncology.

Dr. Petrelli is an active member of a number of professional organizations, including the Society of University Surgeons and the American Surgical Association. He is past President of the Society of Surgical Oncology (2007-2008) and continues as chair of the Colorectal Committee of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP). He has also served on several advisory board panels, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology Expert Panel on Colorectal Cancer Surveillance and the National Cancer Institute Colorectal Cancer Consensus Working Group.

Dr. Petrelli received a 2008 Statesman Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology(ASCO). He received the American Cancer Society Clinical Oncology Fellowship Award in 1979 and 1980. He was recognized as the Outstanding Educator of the Year at Roswell Park in 1997, and was also a four-time winner of the Institute’s Golden Apple Award for Best Teacher in the surgical oncology division.

He is currently a professor of surgery at Thomas Jefferson University and had previously been a professor of surgery at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has been listed among the best doctors in the nation by Good Housekeeping and American Health magazines.

While serving as medical director for the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Research Institute, Dr. Petrelli led the development of a Tissue Procedurement Center with over 4,000 specimens, catalogued through the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Bioinformatics Grid (caBIG/caTissue), which led to $4.6 million funding for participation in the Cancer Genome Atlas Project. Dr. Petrelli oversaw a 124,000 sq. ft. expansion of the original 60,000 sq. ft. Graham Center with the purpose of including all cancer resources under one roof with 7,000 sq. ft. for the Center for Translational Cancer Research. Under his leadership, the Graham Center has had the distinction of a National Cancer Institute Clinical Trials accrual rate of 24% with a robust pharmaceutical clinical trials program.

Dr. Petrelli graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1969 and earned his medical degree at Tulane University Medical School, New Orleans, in 1973. Following a general surgery residency in San Francisco, he was a Fellow in Surgical Oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) in 1978. He joined the staff at Roswell Park in 1982 after completing an International Union Against Cancer Fellowship in Milan, Italy, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.

  • Surgical Oncology
Practice: Christiana Care Health Services

Helen F. Graham Center, Suite 1213
4701 Ogletown-Stanton Road
Newark, DE 19713

  • Tulane University
  • School of Medicine
  • St. Mary's Hospital and Medical Center
  • Roswell Park Cancer Institute
  • National Cancer Institute
Delaware Health Sciences Alliance CarePages Magnet recognition for excellence in nursing

Christiana Care is a private not-for-profit regional health care system and relies in part on the generosity of individuals, foundations and corporations to fulfill its mission. To learn more about how you can support our mission, please visit

Christiana Care Health System PO Box 1668, Wilmington, DE 19899 800-693-CARE