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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The ANN INC. Award

Area(s) of Focus

Laura J. Esserman, MD, MBA

Professor of Surgery and Radiology
Director, Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center
Co-Leader, Breast Oncology Program
UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
University of California
San Francisco, California

Current Research

Despite the recent success of some single agent immunotherapeutics, only a fraction of patients achieve a complete response.  Combinations of immunotherapies are likely to be more effective.  In order to select the right combinations, it is critical to understand the immune microenvironment within breast cancer.  It is not enough to know if immune cells are present, but their location (within the tumor or on the periphery), what kind of cells they are, and whether they are activated are also key pieces of information. Dr. Esserman and her team are utilizing an immune-based assay to see what immune patterns are associated with a good or poor response to neoadjuvant therapy in patients from the I-SPY 1 trial. These same immune panels will also be used to evaluate the immune patterns in patients on the I-SPY 2 trial and determine how the patterns change with targeted therapies. In addition, they will test the impact of single immunotherapeutic agents (without chemotherapy) on women with high risk in situ lesions to see if they can effect changes in the immune microenvironment. The goal of this approach is to optimize combinations of immune targeted agents and determine the tumor types that are most likely to respond.


Dr. Esserman is a surgeon and breast cancer oncology specialist, and is the Director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).   In 1996, she started the Center of Excellence for Breast Cancer Care at UCSF to integrate clinical care and research, automate tools for the capture of patient and clinical data, and develop systems to tailor care to biology, patient preference, and performance.

Dr. Esserman is nationally and internationally known as a leader in the field of breast cancer and has published over 200 articles.  She served as a member of a taskforce for President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Working Group on Advancing Innovation in Drug Development and Evaluation. The group was tasked with making recommendations to the federal government about how to best support science-based innovation in the process of drug development and regulatory evaluation.

She is the Principal Investigator of the I-SPY TRIAL program, a multi-site neoadjuvant clinical trial (which includes a phase 2 and 3 trial) that has evolved into a model for translational research and innovation in clinical trial design. Dr. Esserman has recently launched a University of California-wide breast cancer initiative called the Athena Breast Health Network, a program designed to follow 150,000 women from screening through treatment and outcomes, incorporating the latest in molecular testing and web-based tools into the course of care.  Athena is in the final stages of launching a statewide demonstration project and phase 1/2 trial of personalized screening.

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