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Allison Kurian, MD, MSc

Stanford University School of Medicine
Stanford, California

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

Research area

Using big data approaches to understand population-level aspects of 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 the management of breast cancer for optimal survival and quality of life for patients with breast cancer.

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Kurian is using a novel informatics approach to mine real-world data sources to understand and improve breast cancer treatment, survival, and other outcomes. The primary source of data is Oncoshare—an integrated breast cancer research database that Dr. Kurian’s team built by linking Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) cancer registry data to electronic medical records of more than 34,000 women treated for breast cancer in two California healthcare systems. Recent findings include the identification of substantial disparities in the care of sex and gender minority patients diagnosed with breast cancer, including delays in cancer diagnosis and lower treatment adherence, associated with higher rates of metastatic recurrence; and the discovery that mortality from triple-negative breast cancer is strongly associated with the number of total and unique antibiotic prescriptions that patients received after cancer diagnosis. Dr. Kurian’s findings continue to inform the real-world treatment and care of people diagnosed with breast cancer.

What’s next

In the coming year, Dr. Kurian will focus on three projects using Oncoshare. These projects will examine 1) whether blood biomarkers of immune function reliably predict survival after a breast cancer diagnosis, across breast cancer types and for people of different races and ethnicities; 2) whether patients who must travel long-distance for their breast cancer care have gaps in the quality of their treatment; and 3) how surveillance imaging, such as CT or PET scans, are used to monitor patients with breast cancer and how imaging affects the treatments patients receive.

If it were not for support from BCRF, we would not be able to harness real-world data using bioinformatics to improve the treatment and survival of patients with breast cancer.


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


Donor Recognition

The Play for P.I.N.K. Award