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Elisa Bandera, MD, PhD

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
New Brunswick, New Jersey

Titles and Affiliations

Professor and Chief of Cancer Epidemiology
Co-Leader, Cancer Prevention and Control Program
Director, Cancer Prevention and Outcomes Data Support Shared Resource
Unilever Endowed Chair in Nutrition and Cancer Prevention and
Professor of Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Rutgers University

Health Equity Initiative

Research area

Investigating the drivers of breast cancer in Black women.


In the last 30 years, deaths from breast cancer have declined by 43 percent. Yet, that tremendous progress has not been experienced equally and certain populations are at higher risk for worse breast cancer outcomes. Black women in particular face stark, sobering, and unacceptable disparities. They are diagnosed at younger ages and at more advanced stages of breast cancer, are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer at two times the incidence and—despite being diagnosed at similar rates—are 41 percent more likely to die from their breast cancer than non-Hispanic white women. Eliminating racial disparities in breast cancer incidence, diagnosis, and treatment is an urgent priority.

With generous support from the Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation, BCRF launched the Health Equity Initiative—Breast Cancer Drivers in Black Women: Society to Biology—to address the existing breast cancer mortality gap between white women and Black women. In this era of personalized medicine, BCRF’s goal is to significantly reduce breast cancer disparities and improve outcomes among Black women by advancing personalized, evidence-based care.

One of the major barriers is that Black women are an understudied population, comprising less than 5 percent of patients enrolled in cancer clinical trials where their experience could inform treatment recommendations. Furthermore, single institution studies of Black women are too small in both size and scope to address the complex interactions between race, heredity, genetics, environment, socioeconomic and cultural factors that impact breast cancer risk, biology, and outcomes. As more women are diagnosed with breast cancer, even more are likely to experience the injustice of worse, and preventable, health outcomes. And this poses a significant challenge as the underlying causes of breast cancer disparities are complex and multifactorial. The Health Equity Initiative will address this unmet need and work to close the disparities gap.

What’s next

BCRF has convened leading breast cancer investigators, including epidemiology expert Dr. Bandera, to participate in the Health Equity Initiative. These researchers are conducting a comprehensive study to examine the interaction of comorbidities, social determinants of health (SDoH), and breast cancer genetics in Black women in a bold and novel way. This multi-center effort will enable researchers and clinical trialists across the U.S. to assemble a large database of contemporary SDoH and genetic profiles in Black women with breast cancer. Coupled with treatment and outcomes data this database will allow investigators to develop a comprehensive picture that captures the heterogeneity of breast cancer in Black women.


Elisa Bandera, MD PhD is Professor and Chief of Cancer Epidemiology and Health Outcomes, Co-Leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program and Director of the Cancer Prevention and Outcomes Data Support (CPODS) Shared Resource at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.  She is also Unilever Endowed Chair in Nutrition and Cancer Prevention and Professor of Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University.

Dr. Bandera’s major research interests include the impact of obesity and body composition and related factors on breast and ovarian cancer risk, treatment outcomes, survivorship, and prognosis after a cancer diagnosis, with a focus on cancer health disparities. She has served as Principal Investigator in several epidemiologic cohort studies, including the Women’s Circle of Health Follow-up Study and the New Jersey Breast Cancer Survivors Study, both studies aim to evaluate multi-level factors impacting survivorship and prognosis in minoritized and medically underserved women, including Black/African American and Hispanic women. She has also served in numerous advisory boards and expert panels for several organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF). She has served as ad hoc reviewer for multiple grant review panels for NIH and other agencies, and a former standing member of the NIH Study Section Cancer Heart, and Sleep Epidemiology Panel B (CHSB) and the National Cancer Institute Initial Review Group Subcommittee J for Population and Patient-Oriented Training. Dr. Bandera has also been a member of the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners’ Science Advisory Panel since 2013.

Dr. Bandera has contributed substantially to public policy by playing a major role in the development of nutritional guidelines for cancer prevention and survival on a national and global scale.  For over 10 years, she served as a member of the International Expert Panel for the WCRF/AICR Continuous Update Project and the WCRF/AICR Third Expert Report on Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Cancer: A Global Perspective, released in May 2018.  This publication provided the most comprehensive review of the epidemiologic literature relating nutrition, physical activity and cancer published to date and issued dietary guidelines for cancer prevention.  Dr. Bandera has also been involved in the American Cancer Society’s Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention and Survival Advisory Committees since 2006.  She also served as Chair of the Lifestyle Behaviors, Energy Balance, and Chemoprevention Special Interest Group of the American Society of Preventive Oncology (ASPO) and co-chaired the 2021 ASPO Annual Meeting: Health Equity, Culture, and Cancer.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation