Thomas Jefferson University
Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Cancer Biology
Director, Center for Health Equity at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center
Co-Leader, Cancer Risk and Control Program
Health Equity Initiative
Investigating the drivers of breast cancer in Black women.
In the last 30 years, deaths from breast cancer have declined by 43 percent. Yet, that tremendous progress has not been experienced equally and certain populations are at higher risk for worse breast cancer outcomes. Black women in particular face stark, sobering, and unacceptable disparities. They are diagnosed at younger ages and at more advanced stages of breast cancer, are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer at two times the incidence and—despite being diagnosed at similar rates—are 41 percent more likely to die from their breast cancer than non-Hispanic white women. Eliminating racial disparities in breast cancer incidence, diagnosis, and treatment is an urgent priority.
With generous support from the Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation, BCRF launched the Health Equity Initiative—Breast Cancer Drivers in Black Women: Society to Biology—to address the existing breast cancer mortality gap between white women and Black women. In this era of personalized medicine, BCRF’s goal is to significantly reduce breast cancer disparities and improve outcomes among Black women by advancing personalized, evidence-based care.
One of the major barriers is that Black women are an understudied population, comprising less than 5 percent of patients enrolled in cancer clinical trials where their experience could inform treatment recommendations. Furthermore, single institution studies of Black women are too small in both size and scope to address the complex interactions between race, heredity, genetics, environment, socioeconomic and cultural factors that impact breast cancer risk, biology, and outcomes. As more women are diagnosed with breast cancer, even more are likely to experience the injustice of worse, and preventable, health outcomes. And this poses a significant challenge as the underlying causes of breast cancer disparities are complex and multifactorial. The Health Equity Initiative will address this unmet need and work to close the disparities gap.
BCRF has convened leading breast cancer investigators, including biostatistics expert Dr. Hyslop, to participate in the Health Equity Initiative. These researchers are conducting a comprehensive study to examine the interaction of comorbidities, social determinants of health, and breast cancer genetics in Black women in a bold and novel way.
This multi-center effort will enable researchers and clinical trialists across the U.S. to assemble a large database of contemporary SDoH and genetic profiles in Black women with breast cancer. Coupled with treatment and outcomes data this database will allow investigators to develop a comprehensive picture that captures the heterogeneity of breast cancer in Black women.
Terry Hyslop, PhD is a Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Cancer Biology, Director of The Center for Health Equity, and co-Leader of the Cancer Risk and Control program at Thomas Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. In addition, she is the Biostatistician for an NCI-funded cancer survivorship trial and for IRONMAN, an international registry for prostate cancer patients. She also serves as the Biostatistician of the COMET clinical trial in ductal carcinoma in situ for which fellow BCRF-investigator Shelley Hwang is the PI. Prior to her current appointments at Jefferson University, Dr. Hyslop was a professor at Duke University and the Director of Biostatistics at Duke Cancer Institute and obtained her PhD in statistics from Temple University in 2001.
Dr. Hyslop’s research focuses on novel statistical modeling approaches to cancer outcomes, in particular, to elucidate contributions to disparities in cancer outcomes. This methodology incorporates socio-economic, environmental, clinical, and biological factors and their convergence to affect outcomes. Her team is steeped in the development of novel modeling approaches to flexibly integrate social determinants of health with biomarkers and clinical data to understand potential prevention strategies, particularly for underserved groups. She also has significant expertise in the measurement of cancer biomarkers and developing novel approaches to modeling using biomarkers.
She has over 150 publications, with over 20,000 citations, and has been a lead investigator on dozens of grants supported by NCI, Komen, the state of PA, and BCRF. Dr. Hyslop also serves and an advisory board member for several large cancer centers.
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