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Olufunmilayo (Funmi) I. Olopade, MB, BS, 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
Chicago, Illinois

Current Research

  • Seeking to improve access to quality care and prevention and breast cancer outcomes in underserved African women.
     
  • An international collaboration is ongoing for the development of infrastructure and training for new clinical research that will benefit underserved and understudied groups in Nigeria, Africa.
     
  • These efforts will help create a strong clinical research infrastructure, which can be used to further strengthen Nigeria’s capacity to address and respond to emerging cancer care needs.

Women of African descent are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive breast cancers than white women and more likely to die from their disease. Additionally, women in remote or low resource areas have limited access to screening or genetic testing, compounding the challenge of reducing breast cancer deaths in women of African descent. Dr. Olopade has created an international program in Sub-Sahara Africa to study the causes of breast cancer and to create an infrastructure to ensure that high-risk women get quality preventive screening and treatment.

Full Research Summary

There is a vacuum of knowledge that could otherwise save the lives of women of African ancestry in the U.S. and across the African Diaspora. Dr. Olopade's team has established a translational research platform in Nigeria that has now been extended to Cameroon, Uganda, and South Africa. 

The Nigeria Breast Cancer Study (NBCS) aims to improve the quality of breast cancer care in underserved low-resource communities through rigorous science and technology. These efforts have led to a better understanding of the genomic landscape of breast cancer that can inform biomarker-based clinical trials.

This trans-Atlantic collaboration had led to establishment of the first comprehensive cancer risk and prevention clinic in Sub-Saharan Africa at the University College Hospital Nigeria and will begin offering genetic testing to cancer patients and their at-risk relatives in Nigeria. 

In the last year, the team reported that 1 in 8 breast cancer cases in Nigerian women is due to inherited mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, or TP53. This finding was replicated in Cameroon and Uganda.  Given limited resources in these Sub-Saharan countries, these findings suggest that prevention and early detection services should target these highest-risk women. 

To facilitate broader access to cancer clinical trials in Nigeria, the team will soon launch two biomarker-based oncology clinical trials in Nigeria, while continuing their efforts in training Nigerian oncologists on how to improve the quality of care and offer patients more personalized treatment approaches.

In separate but related research, Dr. Olopade is a co-investigator with BCRF colleague, Dezheng Huo, on studies identifying patterns in the DNA of women from different ethnic backgrounds that may help to explain genetic differences in breast cancer incidence and outcomes.

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’ North America Manufacturing & Distribution and Global Research & Development Award

Co-Investigators