Olufunmilayo (Funmi) F. Olopade, MD, FACP
Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine
Professor of Human Genetics
Founding Director, Cancer Risk Clinic
Associate Dean for Global Health
University of Chicago
Identifying ways to ensure that underserved women in Nigeria at high risk of breast cancer receive quality preventive screening and treatment.
Women of African descent are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive breast cancers, and at a younger age, than white women. They are also more likely to die from their disease. Differences in tumor biology, genomics, and health care delivery patterns all contribute to this breast cancer mortality gap. Those living in low-resource communities have limited access to screening or genetic testing, compounding the challenges clinicians face in reducing these deaths. Dr. Olopade is unraveling the root causes of the disparities in breast cancer outcomes. With the support of BCRF, Dr. Olopade has established robust clinical trials infrastructure and increased the capabilities of oncologists in Nigeria to perform clinical trials. These efforts led to the opening of the first cancer risk clinic in Nigeria. Her team has also been studying the genomic landscape of breast cancer to identify biomarkers that can predict which patients will progress, either at diagnosis or before recurrence. Through their work, Dr. Olopade and her colleagues can offer women in Nigeria biomarker-informed clinical trials and increased access to quality diagnostic tools and optimal standard of care treatments. Their work will further strengthen the country's capacity to address and respond to emerging cancer care needs and provide valuable insights to decrease the burden of breast cancer in Nigeria and other low-resourced communities globally.
Dr. Olopade’s genetic epidemiology studies have advanced our understanding of the burden of breast cancer among young women, especially those with BRCA-associated breast cancers. Her team found a high prevalence of mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes among women with breast cancer in Uganda, Cameroon, and Nigeria. The mutation frequency suggests a significant burden of heritable risk factors across these sub-Saharan African countries. Dr. Olopade and her team are steadily expanding the translational research platform they have developed to other sites across Nigeria.
In the coming year, Dr. Olopade’s international team will implement genetic testing and counseling for breast cancer patients and their families in Cameroon. The team will establish and characterize a biobank of family samples and hope this data will help identify those at high-risk who could benefit from new preventive and therapeutic strategies.
Dr. Olopade's research interests are diverse and include: 1) treatment of breast cancer, especially in young or pregnant women; 2) familial cancers; 3) molecular genetics of cancer; 4) cancer risk assessment and chemoprevention; 5) breast cancer and minority populations; 6) disparities in health outcomes. She has maintained externally funded laboratory and clinical research programs in cancer genetics since 1990. Currently, Dr. Olopade is the Principal Investigator on grants from the NIH/NCI, the Falk Medical Research Trust, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and the Avon Foundation. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has recognized her as a Distinguished Clinical Scientist and Exceptional Mentor.
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