Research Summary

Laura Esserman, MD, MBA, an internationally recognized breast surgeon, breast oncology specialist, and visionary in personalized medicine, is revolutionizing breast cancer screening and treatment throughout our nation today.

As a Professor of Surgery and Radiology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the Director of the UCSF Breast Care Center, Dr. Esserman's breast cancer work spans a spectrum from basic science to public policy issues and the impact of both on the delivery of clinical care. She is a provocative thought leader calling attention to and finding solutions for over-diagnosis and over-treatment of breast cancer, especially of DCIS.

Since 2002, Dr. Esserman has led the I-SPY TRIALS, a ground-breaking national public-private collaboration among NCI, FDA, more than 20 cancer research centers, and major pharma, biotech companies, and the not for profit sponsor, Quantum Leap Healthcare Collaborative. This trial model, which has now become an international model for translational research, designed to shave several years and tens of millions of dollars off the drug development process. The trial paradigm is now being developed for use in other disease domains, and she recently got FDA approval for an I-SPY Covid trial, designed to rapidly screen and confirm high impact treatments to reduce mortality and time on ventilators.

Additionally, Dr. Esserman led the creation of the University of California-wide Athena Breast Health Network, a learning system designed to integrate clinical care and research as it follows 150,000 women from screening through treatment and outcomes. As part of the network, she has spearheaded the development of the WISDOM study to learn how to improve breast cancer screening by testing and comparing the safety and efficacy of a personalized screening strategy informed by each woman's breast cancer risk and preferences against the standard of annual screening.

Dr. Esserman is a passionate and persistent advocate for her patients. She is keenly aware that many of her patients don't have 10 years to wait for the right treatment options. Her work is dedicated to accelerating the development of targeted, effective prevention and treatment options that can make a difference at the time when they are needed the most. Through these efforts, Dr. Esserman is helping to reshape the healthcare system, and changing it from a general population approach to a personalized and patient-centered care model.

Dr. Esserman has published more than 300 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and is regularly consulted by prestigious scientific, business, and consumer media including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Health Magazine, Prevention Magazine, The Newshour, ABC World News, the NBC Nightly News, the CBS Evening News, and NPR's Science Friday.

Dr. Esserman was included as one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2016, and was the recipient of the 2016 Stanford Business School Ernest C. Arbuckle Award and the 2016 Personalized Medicine World Conference Pioneer and Luminary Award. The San Francisco Business Times honored her with the Most Influential Women in Business Awards for 2018, and she also received the 2018 Giant of Cancer Care® in Cancer Diagnostics award.

Research Funding

  • July 15, 2020 - June 30, 2025 - Surgical Oncology Training Grant , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: T32CA251070
  • March 1, 2020 - February 28, 2025 - Extending the Diversity, Reach, and Generalizability of the WISDOM Study , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01CA237533
  • September 8, 2017 - August 31, 2022 - I-SPY2 +: Evolving the I-SPY 2 TRIAL to include MRI-directed, adaptive sequential treatment to optimize breast cancer outcomes , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: P01CA210961
  • September 16, 2015 - August 31, 2021 - Elucidating the molecular and contextual basis for IDLE ultralow risk lesions and the tumor immune microenvironment of high risk in situ and invasive breast cancers , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: U01CA196406


Harvard University, A.B., 1977, History of Science
Stanford University, M.D., 1983, Surgery
Stanford University, School of Business, M.B.A., 1993, Health Policy

Honors & Awards

(partial list)

  • 2010
    CaBIG Advancing Innovation Award, Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid
  • 2013
    Honors & invited plenary speech, "Risk- Based Screening and Prevention of Cancer as a Solution to Over-Diagnosis and Over-Treatment.” Women in Science Program Conference
  • 2013
    San Francisco American Cancer Society Soiree honors
  • 2014
    Award for Outstanding Achievement in Women’s Health, Journal of Women’s Health
  • 2014
    Award for excellence in translational oncology. 10th “Industry/Academia Translational Oncology” Symposium, Moores UCSD Cancer Center
  • 2016
    Stanford Graduate School of Business Earnest C. Arbuckle Award
  • 2016
    Personalized Medicine World Conference Luminary Award
  • 2016
    TIME 100 List of Most Influential People in the World
  • 2018
    20 Most Influential Moms of 2018, Family Circle
  • 2018
    OncLive Giants of Cancer Care Award from OncLive
  • 2020
    Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research from Susan G. Komen


Selected Publications

  1. Kaur M, Patterson A, Molina-Vega J, Rothschild H, Clelland E, Ewing CA, Mujir F, Esserman LJ, Olopade OI, Mukhtar RA. Area Deprivation Index in Patients with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma of the Breast: Associations with Tumor Characteristics and Outcomes. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2023 08 01; 32(8):1107-1113.  View on PubMed
  2. Rothschild HT, Clelland EN, Abel MK, Chien AJ, Shui AM, Esserman L, Khan SA, Mukhtar RA. The impact of histologic subtype on primary site surgery in the management of metastatic lobular versus ductal breast cancer: a population based study from the National Cancer Database. Res Sq. 2023 Jul 19.  View on PubMed
  3. Rothschild HT, Clelland EN, Mujir F, Record H, Wong J, Esserman LJ, Alvarado M, Ewing C, Mukhtar RA. Predictors of Early Versus Late Recurrence in Invasive Lobular Carcinoma of the Breast: Impact of Local and Systemic Therapy. Ann Surg Oncol. 2023 Oct; 30(10):5999-6006.  View on PubMed
  4. Onishi N, Bareng TJ, Gibbs J, Li W, Price ER, Joe BN, Kornak J, Esserman LJ, Newitt DC, Hylton NM, I-SPY 2 Imaging Working Group, I-SPY 2 Investigator Network. Effect of Longitudinal Variation in Tumor Volume Estimation for MRI-guided Personalization of Breast Cancer Neoadjuvant Treatment. Radiol Imaging Cancer. 2023 Jul; 5(4):e220126.  View on PubMed
  5. Hull SC, Chou JC, Yee LM, Yee D, Esserman L. A Truly Pro-Life Position Requires Access to Reproductive Health Care. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2023 Jun 28.  View on PubMed
  6. Boughey JC, Yu H, Dugan CL, Piltin MA, Postlewait L, Son JD, Edmiston KK, Godellas CV, Lee MC, Carr MJ, Tonneson JE, Crown A, Lancaster RB, Woriax HE, Ewing CA, Chau HS, Patterson AK, Wong JM, Alvarado MD, Yang RL, Chan TW, Sheade JB, Ahrendt GM, Larson KE, Switalla K, Tuttle TM, Tchou JC, Rao R, Tamirisa N, Singh P, Gould RE, Terando A, Sauder C, Hewitt K, Chiba A, Esserman LJ, Mukhtar RA. Changes in Surgical Management of the Axilla Over 11 Years - Report on More Than 1500 Breast Cancer Patients Treated with Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy on the Prospective I-SPY2 Trial. Ann Surg Oncol. 2023 Oct; 30(11):6401-6410.  View on PubMed
  7. Mukhtar RA, Chau H, Woriax H, Piltin M, Ahrendt G, Tchou J, Yu H, Ding Q, Dugan CL, Sheade J, Crown A, Carr M, Wong J, Son J, Yang R, Chan T, Terando A, Alvarado M, Ewing C, Tonneson J, Tamirisa N, Gould R, Singh P, Godellas C, Larson K, Chiba A, Rao R, Sauder C, Postlewait L, Lee MC, Symmans WF, Esserman LJ, Boughey JC, ISPY-2 Locoregional Working Group. Breast Conservation Surgery and Mastectomy Have Similar Locoregional Recurrence After Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy: Results From 1462 Patients on the Prospective, Randomized I-SPY2 Trial. Ann Surg. 2023 09 01; 278(3):320-327.  View on PubMed
  8. Yu K, Basu A, Yau C, Wolf DM, Goodarzi H, Bandyopadhyay S, Korkola JE, Hirst GL, Asare S, DeMichele A, Hylton N, Yee D, Esserman L, van 't Veer L, Sirota M. Computational drug repositioning for the identification of new agents to sensitize drug-resistant breast tumors across treatments and receptor subtypes. Front Oncol. 2023; 13:1192208.  View on PubMed
  9. Arasu VA, Habel LA, Achacoso NS, Buist DSM, Cord JB, Esserman LJ, Hylton NM, Glymour MM, Kornak J, Kushi LH, Lewis DA, Liu VX, Lydon CM, Miglioretti DL, Navarro DA, Pu A, Shen L, Sieh W, Yoon HC, Lee C. Comparison of Mammography AI Algorithms with a Clinical Risk Model for 5-year Breast Cancer Risk Prediction: An Observational Study. Radiology. 2023 06; 307(5):e222733.  View on PubMed
  10. Mukhtar RA, Yau C, Esserman LJ. Prognostic Significance of Residual Ductal Carcinoma In Situ After Complete Response of Invasive Breast Cancer to Neoadjuvant Therapy-Reply. JAMA Surg. 2023 06 01; 158(6):675.  View on PubMed
  11. Shieh Y, Roger J, Yau C, Wolf DM, Hirst GL, Swigart LB, Huntsman S, Hu D, Nierenberg JL, Middha P, Heise RS, Shi Y, Kachuri L, Zhu Q, Yao S, Ambrosone CB, Kwan ML, Caan BJ, Witte JS, Kushi LH, 't Veer LV, Esserman LJ, Ziv E. Development and testing of a polygenic risk score for breast cancer aggressiveness. NPJ Precis Oncol. 2023 May 15; 7(1):42.  View on PubMed
  12. Esserman L, Wang T, Che M, Huilgol Y, Keane H, Goodman D, Soonavala R, Ozanne E, Shieh Y, Belkora J, Fiscalini AS. Validation Study on Risk-Reduction Activities after Exposure to a Personalized Breast Cancer Risk-Assessment Education Tool in High-Risk Women in the WISDOM Study. Res Sq. 2023 May 10.  View on PubMed
  13. Magbanua MJM, Brown Swigart L, Ahmed Z, Sayaman RW, Renner D, Kalashnikova E, Hirst GL, Yau C, Wolf DM, Li W, Delson AL, Asare S, Liu MC, Albain K, Chien AJ, Forero-Torres A, Isaacs C, Nanda R, Tripathy D, Rodriguez A, Sethi H, Aleshin A, Rabinowitz M, Perlmutter J, Symmans WF, Yee D, Hylton NM, Esserman LJ, DeMichele AM, Rugo HS, van 't Veer LJ. Clinical significance and biology of circulating tumor DNA in high-risk early-stage HER2-negative breast cancer receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Cancer Cell. 2023 06 12; 41(6):1091-1102.e4.  View on PubMed
  14. Mukhtar RA, Esserman LJ. Time to Surgery in Breast Cancer-Is Faster Always Better? JAMA Surg. 2023 05 01; 158(5):492-493.  View on PubMed
  15. Parker BA, Shatsky RA, Schwab RB, Wallace AM, I-SPY 2 Consortium, Wolf DM, Hirst GL, Brown-Swigart L, Esserman LJ, van 't Veer LJ, Ghia EM, Yau C, Kipps TJ. Association of baseline ROR1 and ROR2 gene expression with clinical outcomes in the I-SPY2 neoadjuvant breast cancer trial. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2023 Jun; 199(2):281-291.  View on PubMed
  16. Badal K, Lee CM, Esserman LJ. Guiding principles for the responsible development of artificial intelligence tools for healthcare. Commun Med (Lond). 2023 Apr 01; 3(1):47.  View on PubMed
  17. Chitalia R, Miliotis M, Jahani N, Tastsoglou S, McDonald ES, Belenky V, Cohen EA, Newitt D, Van't Veer LJ, Esserman L, Hylton N, DeMichele A, Hatzigeorgiou A, Kontos D. Radiomic tumor phenotypes augment molecular profiling in predicting recurrence free survival after breast neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Commun Med (Lond). 2023 Mar 30; 3(1):46.  View on PubMed
  18. Nguyen HP, Sheng R, Murray E, Ito Y, Bruck M, Biellak C, An K, Lynce F, Dillon DA, Magbanua MJM, Huppert LA, Hammerlindl H, Esserman L, Rosenbluth JM, Ahituv N. Implantation of engineered adipocytes that outcompete tumors for resources suppresses cancer progression. bioRxiv. 2023 Mar 29.  View on PubMed
  19. Esserman LJ, Ali H, McKenzie T. When Less Can Be More: How the 10-Year Updated Results From the Randomized Controlled AMAROS Trial Should Affect Axillary Management in the Setting of a Positive Node. J Clin Oncol. 2023 04 20; 41(12):2144-2150.  View on PubMed
  20. Barnes LL, Foster R, Mukhtar RA, Esserman LJ, Ewing C, Alvarado M, Wong J, Piper M. Expanding Candidacy for Nipple-sparing Mastectomy in Women with Large or Ptotic Breasts: Staged Reconstruction Outcomes. Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2023 Jan; 11(1):e4767.  View on PubMed

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