Titles and Affiliations

Associate Chief, Division of Oncology
Director, Stanford Women’s Clinical Cancer Genetics Program
Co-Leader, Stanford Cancer Institute Population Sciences Program
Professor of Medicine
Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health
Stanford University School of Medicine
Stanford, California

Research area

Using big data approaches to understand population-level aspects of metastatic breast cancer to inform treatment and improve outcomes.


Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is responsible for the overwhelming majority of breast cancer deaths. Understanding the burden of MBC on the overall population is critical because it helps public health experts pinpoint specific targets for improving patient care and outcomes. Population-based research can reveal large-scale trends in myriad aspects of a disease that enable the characterization of important metrics such as common sites of disease recurrence, identifying high-risk populations, racial and ethnic disparities, assessing the financial aspect of treatment, how to undertake prevention, and more. These data can guide doctors and patients in treatment decisions to improve outcomes and quality of life. Dr. Kurian is using a “big data” approach to improve diagnosis and care trajectories for optimal survival and quality of life for breast cancer patients. 

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Kurian is approaching the complex question of population-level MBC burden by developing and using Oncoshare, a novel breast cancer research database that links complementary information from (1) the electronic medical records of breast cancer patients from two health care systems; (2) the population-based SEER cancer registry; (3) detailed genomic testing; and (4) tumor tissue samples. In the past year, Dr. Kurian has made several population-level discoveries that contribute to our knowledge of breast cancer care. Among women with triple-negative breast cancer, there is an increased risk of breast cancer death associated with frequent antibiotic use as well as with the number of unique antibiotics used; other conditions that breast cancer patients experience are very similar among patients who are treated with different endocrine therapies for their breast cancer; and sexual and gender minority breast cancer patients experience several health disparities, including higher rates of breast cancer recurrence. Dr. Kurian and her team are also developing an artificial intelligence tool to mine breast MRI scans for prognostic information.

What's next

In the coming year, Dr. Kurian will focus on identifying patients with recurrent metastatic breast cancer by using mathematical modeling and patients’ genomic sequencing results. In a complementary aim, Dr. Kurian will integrate an artificial intelligence approach to imaging analysis with the goal of identifying features of breast tumors from MRI images that correlate with prognosis. 


Allison W. Kurian, MD, MSc is a Professor of Medicine and of Epidemiology and Population Health at Stanford University. She is Associate Chief of the Division of Oncology, Director of the Stanford Women’s Clinical Cancer Genetics Program, and Co-Leader of the Stanford Cancer Institute Population Sciences Program. Dr. Kurian graduated from Stanford University, attended Harvard Medical School followed by Internal Medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, and completed Medical Oncology fellowship and a master’s degree in Epidemiology at Stanford University.  

Dr. Kurian’s research focuses on the identification of women with elevated breast and gynecologic cancer risk, and on the development and evaluation of novel techniques for early cancer detection and risk reduction. As an oncologist and epidemiologist, she aims to understand cancer burden and improve cancer treatment quality at the population level. Her research employs methods from the population sciences, in collaboration with the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program and other large, real-world data resources. Dr. Kurian leads epidemiologic studies of cancer risk factors, clinical trials of novel approaches to cancer risk reduction, and decision analyses of strategies to improve cancer outcomes. 

She has published more than 250 peer-reviewed articles, and her research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, California Breast Cancer Research Program, Komen for the Cure Foundation, and others. Dr. Kurian’s work has been honored by Impact Awards of the National Consortium of Breast Centers and the BRCA Foundation, and election to the American Society of Clinical Investigation.

BCRF Investigator Since