Titles and Affiliations

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

Research area

Developing a personalized intervention platform which matches patients to relevant lifestyle modifications to reduce breast cancer risk.


Obesity has been shown to increase breast cancer risk and exacerbate existing disease. Lifestyle interventions, including diet and exercise, for people with breast cancer are achievable, safe, improve quality of life, and may also reduce the risk disease recurrence. However, there is considerable variability in individual biology and needs, which limits the efficacy of traditional one-size-fits-all approaches. Dr. Iyengar is developing a digitized intervention called the Optimal Living Program that offers individualized lifestyle prescriptions to improve breast cancer outcomes. The intervention includes online risk assessment tools, virtual education sessions, and telemedicine appointments with exercise physiologists, nutritionists, and nurse practitioners trained in lifestyle coaching. 

Progress Thus Far

In previous BCRF-supported work, Dr. Iyengar and his team discovered persistent low-grade inflammation in fatty breast tissue of obese women. They further demonstrated that this inflammation leads to an increase in aromatase levels, resulting in more production of estrogen in fat tissue. Alarmingly, they found that up to one-third of women with a normal weight, and presumably low risk, also have breast inflammation and may be at increased risk for breast cancer. Based on these findings, he developed the Optimal Living Program, a multidisciplinary lifestyle intervention model which will provide individualized lifestyle prescription plans for people diagnosed with breast cancer. Dr. Iyengar has launched the program, enrolled the first cohort of patients, and demonstrated preliminary feasibility.

What’s next

In the upcoming year, Dr. Iyengar will continue to refine and improve the program in terms of operations and patient-reported outcomes. He will also continue enrollment toward his accrual goal in order to assess the primary feasibility outcome and secondary objectives, including quality of life and development of a blood biobank. Ultimately, Dr. Iyengar’s research aims to develop risk stratification algorithms to implement individualized lifestyle interventions to improve quality of life, reduce treatment resistance and complications, and improve breast cancer outcomes. 


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.

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


Donor Recognition

The Amy Robach Award