Titles and Affiliations

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
Chicago, Illinois

Research area

Identifying ways to ensure that underserved women at high risk of breast cancer receive quality preventive screening and treatment.

Impact

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 have also developed clinical trials to test novel targeted treatments and increase access to quality diagnostic tools and optimal standard of care treatments. They hope to further strengthen Nigeria’s capacity to address and respond to emerging cancer care needs. These studies provide valuable insight to decrease the burden of breast cancer in Nigeria as well as low-resourced communities globally.

Progress Thus Far

Her team has successfully conducted genetic epidemiology studies that have advanced the understanding of the burden of breast cancer among young women, especially those with BRCA-associated breast cancers. They have demonstrated 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 expanding the translational research platform they have developed to other sites across Nigeria. 

What’s next

Dr. Olopade will continue to analyze information from ongoing clinical trials (ARETTA and TARMAC) to identify characteristics of patients who have an exceptionally good response to treatment. Her team will extend their studies to characterize the breast tumor microenvironment in different ethnic groups since the tumor microenvironment consists of many factors that contribute to tumor proliferation, progression, angiogenesis, and tumor host immune response. 

Biography

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.

BCRF Investigator Since

2001

Donor Recognition

The Estée Lauder Companies' Brands Award in Memory of Evelyn H. Lauder

The Ulta Beauty Award