​​AACR Distinguished Lecture on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, funded by Susan G. Komen®: Recipients

This award honors an investigator whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the etiology, detection, diagnosis, treatment or prevention of cancer health disparities.

Dr. Julie R. Palmer2017 Award Recipient
Julie R. Palmer, ScD
Professor of Epidemiology and Associate Director for Population Sciences
Boston University School of Public Health
Boston, Massachusetts

Julie R. Palmer, ScD, is a cancer epidemiologist and has devoted most of her career to investigating the etiology of cancer in African-American women. Her work has had a far-reaching impact on the understanding of cancer health disparities that goes beyond her own individual discoveries. Dr. Palmer is professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health, associate director of the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, and associate director for population sciences for the Boston University – Boston Medical Center Cancer Center.  She received her BA from Brown University, MPH from Boston University, and doctorate in epidemiology from Harvard University. Dr. Palmer’s major research interest is the etiology of breast cancer, with a particular focus on African-American women. She was instrumental in designing and implementing the Black Women’s Health Study, a cohort study of 59,000 women, and has served as co-investigator of the study since its inception in 1995.
A major goal of Dr. Palmer’s research program is reduction of breast cancer mortality in young African-American women by identification of modifiable factors that influence development of hormone receptor negative breast cancer. To that end, Dr. Palmer, with investigators from two other institutions, has led a collaborative NCI Program Project (AMBER), which combines data, germline DNA, and tumor tissue samples from four epidemiologic studies of breast cancer in African-American women for identification of factors related to specific breast cancer subtypes. Dr. Palmer’s research has provided convincing evidence that breastfeeding reduces risk of hormone receptor negative breast cancer and that, in the absence of breastfeeding, higher parity is associated with an increased risk of receptor negative disease. She is now assessing the possible interaction of those factors with genetic variants in pathways related to inflammation and hormone metabolism. Dr. Palmer has also led work to develop an effective risk prediction tool for breast cancer in African-American women. Her current approach involves developing subtype-specific risk models, which take into account the recently recognized differential associations for estrogen receptor positive and negative breast cancer as well as established differences in age-incidence pattern. 

A second approach to reducing the disproportionately high breast cancer mortality experienced by African-American women is to identify factors, other than tumor characteristics and treatments, that influence survival. Dr. Palmer is now following a breast cancer cohort from within the Black Women’s Health Study – participants who developed invasive breast cancer after enrollment in the study. She reported an increased breast cancer mortality in women who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at least five years before breast cancer diagnosis relative to those without diabetes. Future analyses, with larger numbers of cases, will assess other comorbidities as well as use of metformin, propranolol, statins, and aspirin, and will assess effects of psychosocial stress and modifiers of stress. 

Dr. Palmer serves on the Steering Committee of the NCI Cohort Consortium. She has recently completed a four-year term on the NIH Cancer, Cardiovascular, and Sleep Epidemiology Study Section, including two years as chair. She serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the NIEHS Sister Study, the University of Pittsburgh Shanghai and Singapore Cohort Studies, and the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.

Previous Award Recipients:
  • 2016: Amelie G. Ramirez
  • 2015: Electra D. Paskett
  • 2014: John D. Carpten
  • 2013: Beti Thompson
  • 2012: Claudia R. Baquet
  • 2011: Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade
  • ​2010: Charles M. Perou