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Samilia Obeng-Gyasi, MPH, MD

The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio

Titles and Affiliations

Assistant Professor of Surgery

Conquer Cancer, The ASCO Foundation

Research area

Determining if external stresses, combined with genetic ancestry, may influence a patient’s ability to complete treatment.


Breast cancer patients of Black race and African ancestry are more likely to die from their breast cancer than Caucasian women and women of European ancestry. An explanation for these racially and ancestry-based disparities include differences in rates of chemotherapy and radiation therapy completion. However, little is known about how the intersection of genetic ancestry and an individual’s biology impacts the rate of treatment completion. Dr. Obeng-Gyasi is interested in the role of stress—and the “wear and tear” it causes on the body—as one biological factor in treatment completion. Biomarkers of stress, referred to collectively as allostatic load, span multiple systems of the body including the cardiac, metabolic, immune, and neuroendocrine systems. Prior studies suggested associations between elevated allostatic load and Black race, more aggressive tumors, lower rates of chemotherapy completion, and worse overall survival. For her Conquer Cancer Advanced Clinical Research Award, Dr. Obeng-Gyasi and her team will pursue this further to see if allostatic load is a plausible influence in the relationship between genetic ancestry and treatment completion in breast cancer.

Progress Thus Far

To date, the study has enrolled four patients at The Ohio State University and Indiana University. Both universities are actively screening patients to identify and enroll eligible participants.

What’s next

Genetic ancestry and allostatic load will be assessed in newly diagnosed self-reported Black and white patients with stages I-III breast cancer. These patients will subsequently be tracked to determine if they complete their chemotherapy and radiation therapy regimens. The data from this study will serve as preliminary data for a multi-institutional clinical trial examining the impact of a comprehensive allostatic load reduction program on improving treatment completion and cancer recurrence.


Samilia Obeng-Gyasi, MD is a fellowship trained breast surgical oncologist. Her practice is focused on surgery for breast cancer and benign breast diseases. She obtained her B.S. in Biology (with highest distinction and departmental honors) from Indiana University-Bloomington and her MD from The University of Michigan. She completed her general surgery residency at the Cleveland Clinic and a Society of Surgical Oncology accredited breast surgical oncology fellowship at Duke University.

Due to her interest in health services research, after finishing her residency, she completed a master’s in public health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. As a health services researcher with a focus in health equity, the overarching goal of her work is to understand how ancestry, social determinants of health, behavior and stress interact to influence cancer initiation and progression through the concept of allostatic load.

BCRF Investigator Since