Titles and Affiliations

Professor of Oncology
Director, Women's Malignancies Disease Group
Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland
Member, BCRF Scientific Advisory Board


Research area

Designing effective weight loss interventions to reduce the risk of cancer posed by obesity.


Women with breast cancer who are overweight or obese experience poorer outcomes compared to those of average weight, despite optimal local and adjuvant therapy. Many women gain weight following a breast cancer diagnosis, which may increase the risk of recurrence and death. Since studies suggest that weight loss may be associated with improved breast cancer survival outcomes, Dr. Stearns is focused on enhancing interventions for weight loss and understanding the biological processes involved—research that has the potential to prevent breast cancer or its recurrence. Dr. Stearns and her team are assessing weight loss approaches and how they affect breast cancer biomarkers. They have designed and tested the POWER-remote study to evaluate the effectiveness of a remote (telephone-based) dietary counseling program in overweight or obese women with early-stage breast cancer. Since poor sleep predicts reduced benefit from weight loss interventions, Dr. Stearns is also investigating the association between insufficient sleep and increased BMI/obesity. 

Progress Thus Far

Results from their studies indicated that 46 percent of women enrolled in the POWER-remote arm were more successful in losing five percent of their bodyweight compared to their self-directed peers at 6 months. In addition, patients in the remote intervention group sustained their weight loss over 12 months and achieved a significant decrease in circulating factors related to breast cancer growth and cardiovascular risk. In the last year, the team has also completed enrollment in the Cancer, Obesity/Overweight, and Insomnia study (COIN) which will assess whether a sleep intervention will augment the benefits of POWER-remote.  

What's next

The team will evaluate the data from the COIN study to determine the effects of behavioral intervention for insomnia on weight loss. In a related study, Dr. Stearns and her team are testing the combination of a weight loss medication (Contrave®,naltrexone HCl/bupropion HCl) in addition to POWER-remote in women with a history of breast cancer. In these studies, Dr. Stearns plans to assess how weight loss in overweight and obese patients alters the gut microbiome–the collection of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in the gut. 


Dr. Stearns joined the faculty at the Breast Cancer Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in 2002. She was appointed as co-Director of the Breast Cancer Program in 2010, and to full Professor in 2013 and co-Director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program in 2014. 

Dr. Stearns’s long-term research goal is to improve current therapies by individualizing strategies for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. Her main research includes utilization of biomarkers to predict response to standard regimens used to treat and prevent breast cancer and to introduce new treatments.  Dr. Stearns and colleagues from the Consortium On Breast Cancer Pharmacogenomics (COBRA) Group were the first to evaluate the role of genetic variants in candidate genes such as CYP2D6 in tamoxifen metabolism, safety, and efficacy. The work has been extended to evaluate the role of genetic variants in aromatase inhibitor associated outcomes.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Estée Lauder Award

Areas of Focus