MacArthur Fellows Program

Olufunmilayo Olopade

Oncologist | Class of 2005

Translating findings on the molecular genetics of breast cancer in African-American and African women into innovative clinical practices in the United States and abroad.

University of Chicago Hospitals
Chicago, Illinois
48 at time of award
Published September 1, 2005

About Olufunmilayo's Work

Olufunmilayo Olopade is an oncologist who translates her basic research on individual and population cancer susceptibility into an effective clinical practice for treating breast cancer among African and African-American women. Trained in clinical oncology and cancer genetics, her early research led to the identification of a tumor suppressor locus on the short arm of the 9th chromosome. Her more recent work focuses more specifically on the molecular genetics of breast cancer in women of African heritage. Tumors of this population demonstrate distinct biological characteristics, including a high level of aggressiveness and resistance to treatment. Olopade first described recurrent BRCA1 mutations in extended African-American families with breast cancer, and reported BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in pre-menopausal breast cancer patients from West Africa. As founding director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago, Olopade leads the application of her research from the bench to the bedside. She oversees a coordinated, multidisciplinary, clinical program that includes oncologists, primary care physicians, genetic counselors, sociologists, and psychologists and provides free access to genetic services for local, at-risk populations. Currently, Olopade also heads a West African clinical trial for a pill form of chemotherapy as treatment for women with advanced breast cancer.  In bridging continents with her innovative research and service models, Olopade is increasing the probability of improved outcomes for millions of women of African heritage at risk for cancer here and abroad.


Olufunmilayo Olopade received an M.D. (1980) from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and served as a medical officer at the Nigerian Navy Hospital. She completed an internship and residency (1986) at the Cook County Hospital, Chicago, and trained in hematology and oncology as a postdoctoral fellow (1987-1991) at the University of Chicago. Olopade is a professor of medicine and human genetics and director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where she has been on the faculty since 1991.

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