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Neil Iyengar, MD

Assistant Member and Attending Physician,
Breast Medicine Service
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Associate Attending Physician, The Rockefeller University
New York, New York

Current Research

  • Seeking to discover biomarkers that can identify healthy-weight women who are at risk of breast cancer and to develop prevention strategies to reverse this risk.

  • Clinical studies are planned to identify women with localized breast inflammation who may be at risk of breast cancer and to test a personalized lifestyle intervention.

  • This study will lead to more precise risk assessment and preventive strategies to reduce the incidence of breast cancer.

Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of the most common type of breast cancer (estrogen-dependent) after menopause. After a diagnosis of breast cancer, obesity is associated with a poor prognosis for all types of breast tumors.

Local breast inflammation occurs in about 90 percent of obese women, about 50 and 33 percent in overweight and  normal weight women, respectively. Dr. Iyengar and his team were the first to describe what they call inflamed fat and the related molecular changes that can cause breast tumor development and progression.

These changes include increased levels of aromatase, the protein that makes the female hormone estrogen, and alterations in metabolic and inflammatory factors in blood. This may explain why breast cancer patients who have inflamed breast fat have a worse prognosis and why normal weight, otherwise healthy women with inflamed breast fat, have elevated levels of aromatase.

This year, Dr. Iyengar's team will conduct two parallel clinical trials to develop methods to identify women with breast inflammation and to test a tailored diet and precision-exercise intervention to reverse the affects of breast inflammation. This research will provide evidence to support the development of targeted cancer prevention and treatment trials and represents a critical step in the development of more precise cancer risk assessment and prognostic strategies. 


Neil Iyengar is a medical oncologist and clinical-translational researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). He is an Assistant Attending Physician in the Breast Medicine Service at MSKCC and also holds a joint research appointment at the Rockefeller University as an Associate Attending. He received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago. He complete residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of Chicago followed by fellowship in medical oncology and hematology at MSKCC. His research has been supported by grant awards from several organizations including Young Investigator Awards from the Conquer Cancer Foundation and from Expedition Inspiration, as well as awards from the NCCN, the American Association for Cancer Research, and others. He has been invited to speak at international meetings and he has published several peer reviewed articles.

Together with BCRF grantees Dr. Clifford Hudis (MSKCC) and Dr. Andrew Dannenberg (Weill Cornell Medical College), Dr. Iyengar steers the multi-institutional Obesity & Cancer Working Group – a highly productive translational research team that includes basic scientists, clinicians, epidemiologists, exercise physiologists, and other experts. Dr. Iyengar specifically studies the role of metabolic health and inflammation in the development and progression of breast and several other cancers. Given the rising rates of obesity worldwide, Dr. Iyengar and his team are working to develop feasible and highly-targeted preventive and treatment strategies aimed at adipose tissue inflammation, which are poised to have a broad public health impact.

BCRF Investigator Since


Area(s) of Focus