You are here

BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Cynthia Lufkin Award

Area(s) of Focus

Heather L. McArthur, MD, MPH

Assistant Attending Physician, Breast Medicine Service, Department of Medicine,
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College
New York, New York

Current Research

While treatment advances over the past two decades have significantly improved outcomes for women with early stage breast cancer, up to one-third will experience a distant recurrence (metastasis). Breast cancer represents a collection of diseases, and different tumors respond differently to conventional treatment strategies. Drs. McArthur, Hudis  and Solomon believe that an immune-based therapeutic strategy that includes stimulation of an individual’s immune system may improve breast cancer outcomes for all tumor types. Laboratory studies have shown that freezing tumor tissue, a process called cryoablation, activates critical tumor-specific immune cells. This approach dramatically decreased tumor growth in experimental models when it was combined with targeted immunotherapy. Dr. McArthur and colleagues recently completed a small Phase I study in women with early stage breast cancer and found the combination to be well tolerated. Others have reported dramatic responses to combination immunotherapy in metastatic melanoma. Based on these encouraging findings, the Memorial Sloan Kettering research team in collaboration with Jedd Wolchok, will initiate a phase II study to test multiple combinations of immunotherapy in women with hormone receptor-negative, HER2-negative (triple negative) early stage breast cancer. These studies may lead to alternative treatment options for TNBC and advance the use of immunotherapy in breast cancer.


Heather McArthur, MD, MPH is a medical oncologist with a clinical practice dedicated to the care of patients with breast cancer. Her research activities are focused on innovations in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, with a particular interest in novel immune therapy strategies. She is currently evaluating the impact of tumor destruction with freezing (cryoablation) in combination with immune stimulation for the treatment of women with early stage breast cancer. It is hoped that by augmenting one's immune response to the unique biologic features of one's tumor, that an affected individual may develop long-term immunity against their tumor, and thus, be cured.

Dr. McArthur completed formal medical oncology training at the University of British Columbia. There, she was awarded the highly competitive Canadian Association of Medical Oncology/Canadian Institute for Health Research R&D Fellowship which funded her advanced clinical research fellowship at MSKCC. She has a Master’s in Public Health from Harvard. She has presented her research at the ASCO Annual Meeting and the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, and has served on the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO YIA/CDA Grants Selection Committee, the ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium Program Committee, and a NCI Breast Cancer Steering Committee Working Group. She has been a reviewer for several clinical journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature Clinical Practice Oncology, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Cancer, and Clinical Breast Cancer and has written more than 50 articles, review articles, invited commentaries, and book chapters on breast cancer.