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Olufunmilayo I. 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
Goal: To improve access to quality care and prevention and breast cancer outcomes in underserved African women.
Impact: Dr. Olopade has opened the first cancer risk clinic in Nigeria, where she and her team can conduct clinical trials and provide underserved women with genetic counseling and testing.
What’s next: She plans to launch several investigations into the drivers of breast cancer in Nigeria and across Sub-Saharan African, which could help doctors tailor treatments to the needs of each patient in the region.
Women of African descent are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive breast cancers than white women and are more likely to die from their disease. For those living in remote or low-resource areas, limited access to screening and genetic testing makes improving outcomes even more challenging. Dr. Olopade is building an infrastructure in one of these areas in Africa that will help women at high risk of breast cancer access quality care.
Full Research Summary
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 than white women, and at a younger age. They’re also more likely to die from their disease. Those living in low-resource communities have limited access to screening or genetic testing, compounding the challenge researchers face in reducing these deaths. Dr. Olopade is studying cancer risk factors particular to African populations and developing infrastructure and training for new clinical research, which would help improve the quality of care and offer patients more personalized treatments.
Current investigation: Dr. Olopade and her team established a translational research platform in Nigeria—which has been extended to other nations—to study the genomic landscape of breast cancer that can inform biomarker-based clinical trials.
What she’s learned so far: Dr. Olopade 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.
What’s next: Using the knowledge they’ve gained, the team will launch several genomic biomarker-based oncology clinical trials and will gain a better understanding of breast cancer heterogeneity in women of African ancestry across the Diaspora. Dr. Olopade will also continue to develop a strong clinical research infrastructure in Nigeria, which can be used to further strengthen the country’s capacity to address and respond to emerging cancer care needs.
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.