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Joyce Slingerland, MD, PhD, FRCPC

Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry
Director, Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute
Breast Program Leader
Associate Director for Translational Research
University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Miami, Florida

Current Research

  • Seeking new strategies to prevent breast cancer metastasis.
  • Ongoing studies are focused on understanding the interaction between tumor cells and fat cells that stimulate cancer stem cell growth and promote drug resistance and metastasis. 
  • This work may explain the links between obesity and breast cancer and yield novel strategies for stem cell-targeted therapies to prevent metastasis.

It is paradoxical that while estrogen is implicated in breast cancer risk, breast cancer is far more prevalent after menopause when total estrogen levels are greatly reduced. One explanation for this could lie within estrogen producing fat cells and the increasing prevalence of obesity or excess weight in women after menopause. Dr. Slingerland is conducting studies to understand the relationships between obesity, estrogen and inflammation and breast cancer risk. Her studies may lead to new targeted intervention strategies.

Full Research Summary

Obesity is associated with a greater risk and worse outcome in breast cancer, the causes of which are not fully known. These effects have been most notable in hormone-responsive cancers that express the estrogen receptor (ER-positive), but are also seen in ER-negative inflammatory breast cancers.

Through her BCRF-supported research, Dr. Slingerland found that when breast cancer cells come into contact with fat cells, which make up a large proportion of the breast, inflammatory factors are produced that stimulate the growth of aggressive stem cells.

In her current BCRF-supported project, Dr. Slingerland is studying changes in cellular pathways that occur when breast cancer cells encounter fat cells. In particular, she hopes to understand how obesity and estrogen profiles after menopause generate an inflammatory environment that can stimulate breast cancer development and the more aggressive disease behavior associated with obesity.

Her studies suggest that post-menopausal estrogens, particularly estrone, produced largely in fat, promotes cancer development and drives its metastatic progression.

In the coming year, she will investigate how the pro-inflammatory environment of obesity increases local and circulating inflammatory markers.  

This work may explain the links between obesity and breast cancer risk, yield novel strategies for stem cell-targeted therapies, and define novel profiles of estrogen-activated gene drivers of breast cancer in obesity.


Dr. Slingerland received her MD from the University of Toronto in 1983, followed by a Fellowship in Internal Medicine with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada. In 1987, she was certified by the American Board in Internal Medicine and in Medical Oncology by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. In August of 2002, Dr. Slingerland came to the University of Miami School of Medicine as the Director of the Braman Breast Cancer Institute, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she is working to expand and coordinate research efforts on breast cancer from many disciplines.

Dr. Slingerland discovered the cell growth brakes molecule p27 and her research investigates how cancer cells lose growth restraints. Current work also investigates the causes underlying resistance to endocrine (also called anti-estrogen) therapies for breast cancer. Recent work is focused on why obesity increases breast cancer risk and worsens patient outcomes and is testing effects of a fatty environment on breast cancer stem cells.

Dr. Slingerland is also Professor of Medicine with a graduate appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Miami, as well as a member of the senior leadership of the UMSCCC and Co-Program Leader of the UMSCCC's Molecular Oncology and Experimental Therapeutics Program. She continues her medical practice devoted entirely to breast cancer patients at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Jackson Memorial Hospital. She has published over 70 articles and reviews in addition to several book chapters and has received numerous awards.

Grid Researcher Headshot - Slingerland J

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The AutoNation Cure Bowl Award