Olufunmilayo (Funmi) I. Olopade, MB, BS, FACP
Associate Dean for Global Health
Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Genetics & Human Genetics
Director, Cancer Risk Clinic
University of Chicago Medical Center
2012-2013 BCRF Projects:
(made possible by generous support from The Estée Lauder Companies Brands)
On June 1, 2009, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Orlando, Dr. Olopade was presented with the 2009 ASCO-American Cancer Society Award for her significant contributions to the prevention and management of cancer. Read more...
1) Dr. Olopade's laboratory continues to focus on studying the genetic predisposition to breast cancer. In the past year, their understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in cancer progression has greatly expanded. In addition to specific genetic mutations, non-genetic mechanisms that potentially contribute to breast cancer progression in young women have been identified. Dr. Olopade's team participates in a large collaborative consortium including other BCRF-funded investigators and has identified alternative splicing as well as dysregulation of small non-coding genes as critical epigenetic regulators of tumor initiation and progression. They are now examining whether they can identify novel biomarkers (splice variants and microRNAs) that are associated with population genetics, tumor subtype, propensity to metastasis, and response to therapy in breast cancer. Dr. Olopade's ultimate goal is to use this knowledge to develop effective diagnostic tools and novel therapies that benefit ALL women at risk for breast cancers.
Mid-year Progress:In the previous project report, Dr. Olopade described the importance of characterizing the alternate splice variants of tumor suppressor genes. Her team showed how BRCA2 is a useful model for investigations into splicing and post-splicing levels of gene regulation.
In order to evaluate the significance of altered splicing patterns seen in the presence of sequence variants it is critical to understand the spectrum and variability of normally occurring splice variants. They have therefore initiated and will continue to conduct efforts towards this goal.
2) By developing a robust infrastructure for conducting breast cancer clinical research in Nigeria, Dr. Olopade's team is transforming the quality of breast cancer care in the country and throughout Africa. Upon completion of the first investigator-initiated clinical breast cancer trial led by local investigators in Sub-Saharan Africa, researchers led by Dr. Olopade have attracted additional support from pharmaceutical companies and are planning new studies that will allow African doctors to "leap frog" using modern information technologies and to begin incorporating effective therapies in their management of breast cancer patients. This should be cost effective for the country in managing cancer treatment resources in the long run.
Mid-year Progress: As part of their overall effort, Dr. Olopade's team is developing a clinical protocol to optimize treatment for all patients enrolled in their studies in Nigeria. At the last Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, all potential collaborators and investigators agreed to collect data on uniformly treated patients who will be supported through funds from BCRF. These samples will help inform scientists on the effectiveness of various treatments in this unique population and help to develop predictive biomarkers that can be used to select treatment strategies for premenopausal patients with hormone receptor positive breast cancer. The researchers also aim to develop biomarkers that can be used to predict resistance to either hormone therapies or systemic chemotherapies so that oncologists can adopt earlier interventions to help maximize patient benefits.
Funmi Olopade directs a multidisciplinary clinical and laboratory research program in cancer genetics at the University of Chicago Medical Center. This program helps speed the transfer of basic research in cancer genetics to the benefit of people. Dr. Olopade combines extensive family studies with genetic testing to develop strategies for prevention and/or early detection in patients at high risk for cancer.
In October, 2008, in recognition of her work, Dr. Olopade was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. In February 2011, Dr. Olopade was nominated by President Barack Obama for membership on the National Cancer Advisory Board.
Dr. Olopade is an international leader in the field of clinical cancer genetics, a field that seeks to identify and understand the various genes that contribute to cancer susceptibility, how these genes interact with one another and how they are affected by environmental factors. Her current laboratory research is focused on tumor suppressor genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 that predispose to breast and ovarian cancers. As a hematologist/oncologist, Dr. Olopade specializes in the treatment of aggressive breast cancer that disproportionately affects young women.
Dr. Olopade received her medical degree with distinction from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and served as a medical officer at the Nigerian Navy Hospital. She came to the United States as a resident in internal medicine at Cook County Hospital, Chicago, where she was named Chief Medical Resident. She did her Hematology/Oncology Fellowship training at the University of Chicago and was appointed to the faculty in 1991. A former James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar, Dr. Olopade currently is a Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist.
Dr. Olopade is a member of many professional societies including the American Association for Cancer Research, American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Hematology, American College of Physicians and the American Society of Breast Diseases. She serves on the Steering Committee of the NCI Cooperative Family Registry for Breast Cancer Studies and the Advisory Committee of the Cancer Genetics Network. Dr. Olopade is a member of the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors.
Dr. Olopade, BCRF investigator since 2001, participates on panel at the World Science Festival discussing the relationship between cancer and genetics. Read more.