Titles and Affiliations

Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology
Division of Medical Oncology
Director of Breast Oncology
Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center

Research area

Identifying ways to improve cancer care delivery, quality of care, and quality of life for patients with breast cancer.


While many new treatments, diagnostic tests, and procedures for breast cancer patients have been introduced in the past decade, the quality of cancer care remains a major national concern.  Dr. Hershman is conducting interventional studies that would address this challenge and improve the lives of patients during and after breast cancer care. Her current studies focus on issues related to quality of life and treatment side effects including, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy—a common side effect of a class of drug called taxanes—pain management for patients with metastatic breast cancer, chemotherapy-induced hyperglycemia, and the use of controlled substances to manage pain following breast cancer treatment.   

Progress Thus Far

In the last year, Dr. Hershman and her colleagues completed a clinical trial to test the prevalence of hyperglycemia in breast cancer patients during chemotherapy—trial analysis is ongoing.  Based on positive preliminary results, her team also expanded and completed accrual for a trial to test cryotherapy versus compression therapy to prevent taxane-induced neuropathy in breast cancer patients and found that compression is superior to cryotherapy. When examining the use of controlled substances for pain management, Dr. Hershman found that 17 percent of the 18,931 opioid-naïve women that filled an opioid prescription after surgery became new persistent users, highlighting the need for non-opioid strategies for pain management.    

What's next

Based on her clinical findings, Dr. Hershman and her colleagues will continue to develop interventions to better control glucose levels during chemotherapy. Her BCRF-funded investigation demonstrating that compression is better for neuropathy control than cryotherapy has enabled Dr. Hershman to move compression therapy to a large phase 3 National Cancer Institute study. In collaboration with an industry leader in medical technology, Dr. Hershman has created a specialized device for use in this trial. Her team will also continue testing new electronic technologies to improve patient-provider communication and enhance pain management. Other studies are ongoing to explore the role and potential benefit of primary care for patients living with metastatic breast cancer. Dr. Hershman’s team is designing a model system to analyze important factors associated with outcome measures for these patients. 


Dawn Hershman, MD, MS is Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Columbia University and is Leader of the Breast Cancer Program of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. She completed her medical degree at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine where she was Alpha Omega Alpha and completed her internal medicine residency and oncology fellowship training at Columbia University Medical Center, where she served as Chief Resident. During that time, she completed a master’s degree in Biostatistics/Patient Oriented Research at the Mailman School of Public Health.

She was appointed a faculty position at Columbia University in 2001 and since that time has developed an expertise in the areas of breast cancer treatment, prevention, survivorship, late-effects of cancer therapy, health outcomes and health disparities research. She has published over 250 scientific articles and has received numerous awards including the Ewig Award for Teaching Excellence, the AVON Foundation Medical Advancement Award, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Advanced Clinical Research Award and the ASCO/BCRF Comparative Effectiveness Professorship. She has national leadership positions in the Southwest Oncology Group, where she serves as co-chair of the Cancer Care Delivery Committee and Co-PI of the NCORP Research Base. She has served as primary mentor for numerous medical students, graduate students, fellows and junior faculty.

She has received grant funding from the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Department of Defense, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, PCORI, the Irving Center for Clinical Research and the Avon Foundation for Women.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Pink Agenda Award

Areas of Focus