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Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, MD, FAACR, Honored With 2021 William L. McGuire Memorial Lecture Award

SAN ANTONIO – Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, MD, FAACR, will receive the William L. McGuire Memorial Lecture Award at the 2021 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS), to be held December 7-10, 2021.

The William L. McGuire Memorial Lecture Award was established in 1992 to commemorate McGuire’s significant contributions to breast oncology. McGuire, along with Charles A. Coltman, MD, founded SABCS in 1977.

Olopade is the Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics and director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics and Global Health at the University of Chicago Medicine. A pioneer in the fields of cancer genetics and personalized medicine, Olopade studies familial forms of cancers and molecular mechanisms of tumor progression in high-risk individuals and diverse populations, including mechanisms contributed by genetic and non-genetic factors.

A practicing medical oncologist, Olopade is an expert in genetically informed cancer risk assessment and individualized treatment for the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. She stresses comprehensive risk-reducing and prevention strategies in high-risk populations and earlier detection through advanced imaging technologies. She is committed to translating her research into effective tools for improving patient outcomes.

Throughout her career, Olopade has prioritized eliminating cancer health disparities in the U.S. and around the world. In 1992, she founded the Comprehensive Cancer Risk and Prevention Clinic in Chicago, which serves as a critical resource for individuals at high risk for developing breast cancer. As a clinician who regularly treated patients with familial breast cancer, Olopade proposed that both genetics and environmental or lifestyle factors can vary by race or ethnicity and affect breast cancer incidence. In 2009, she published the groundbreaking finding that most tumors in indigenous African women with breast cancer are triple-negative tumors, and that this population carried distinct genetic markers associated with accelerated tumor progression. Triple-negative breast cancer is also more common in African American women than in white women in the United States. Her subsequent research has illuminated the high prevalence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in African patients with breast cancer and identified unique mutations across the African diaspora. These findings have deepened the understanding of the genomic landscape and evolutionary trajectory of breast cancer and outcomes among diverse populations and helped to inform more effective approaches to personalized screening, prevention, and treatment.

“I am honored to receive this award in memory of Dr. McGuire, who first defined heterogeneity in breast cancer by identifying the subset of women with breast cancer who had a high recurrence rate and could benefit from more aggressive combination chemotherapy,” said Olopade. “While the estrogen receptor remains the single most important determinant of outcomes in breast cancer, advances in genetic testing and genomics research have propelled us into a new era in precision oncology. We now have the tools to predict and outright prevent the most lethal forms of breast cancer.”

Over the course of her career, Olopade has been recognized with various honors and awards, including election to the National Academy of Sciences (2021) and the National Academy of Medicine (2008). She was also elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy (2013), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (2010), and the National Academy of Arts and Sciences (2010). In 2012 she was named an Officer of the Order of the Niger and in 2005 she received the prestigious MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship. She has received the AACR Distinguished Lectureship on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities (2011), the AACR-Minorities in Cancer Research Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship (2006), and the AACR Minority Scholar Award for Scientific Excellence (2005), among many others.

“Dr. Olopade has been a leader in the fields of cancer genetics and disparities,” said Virginia Kaklamani, MD, SABCS co-director. “Her research on the role of genetics as well as environment in the development of breast cancer in Black women has led to a better understanding of this disease. Beyond her important research contributions, Dr. Olopade is a great colleague and mentor. We are honored that she will accept the McGuire Memorial Lecture Award at this year’s SABCS.”

Olopade will present a lecture titled “Heterogeneity of Breast Cancer Genomes: Going Beyond Therapy to Risk Assessment and Prevention” during the Symposium.