Our People

Laura Esserman, MD MBA Clinical Advisor

Dr. Esserman is a professor of Surgery & Radiology at UCSF, and since 1996 the Director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center. She co-leads the Breast Oncology Program which is the largest of the UCSF Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center’s multidisciplinary programs, comprising 69 faculty members who represent 16 academic specialties and is an internationally recognized, program with major initiatives in epidemiology, genetics, biology, therapeutics, and clinical cancer care. She is the founder of the program in Translational Informatics at UCSF which spans the disciplines of bioinformatics, medical and clinical informatics, systems integration, and clinical care delivery.

Dr. Esserman leads many multidisciplinary initiatives and projects. For her leadership of the I-SPY TRIAL, collaboration among three cooperative groups, a National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Center for Bioinformatics and SPORE program, she received the NCI 2005 SPORE Investigator of the Year Award, an internationally recognized honor and designation. As the Primary Investigator of a Department of Defense-funded Center of Excellence grant, she brought together an extraordinary multidisciplinary group of investigators, health care and industry partners to work on critical problems of improving the quality of care delivered to women with breast cancer.

Dr. Esserman completed her Bachelor’s degree in the History of Science from Harvard University, completed her M.D. at Stanford University, and surgery residency and oncology fellowship at Stanford University Medical Center. After her training, she joined the faculty at Stanford and received a Hartford fellowship to attend Stanford Business School where she received her M.B.A. in 1993. She then joined the faculty at the University of California, San Francisco.

At UCSF she has worked to develop interdisciplinary teams of clinicians and researchers to bring the best care to patients and find the optimal platform to integrate translational research and rapidly advance the state of the art of delivering breast cancer care. Her research brings people together from diverse disciplines. She is currently Principal Investigator of three large grants which include the SPORE I SPY TRIAL program, a multi-center collaborative network to develop a platform to rapidly assess the impact of interventions and optimize the introduction and testing of new agents in women with larger breast cancers, using novel imaging and molecular triage during the course of neoadjuvant therapy. In addition, she recently launched a University of California-wide breast cancer initiative called the Athena Breast Health Network, a project 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.

In March 2015, she received one of the first five major grants funded through the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute’s (PCORI) Pragmatic Clinical Trials initiative. The $14 million grant will fund the WISDOM trial which will randomize women to annual breast cancer screening vs. a personalized screening program informed by each patient’s estimated risks and their preferences.

She is 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 which is studying how the federal government can best support science-based innovation in the process of drug development and regulatory evaluation.

Dr. Esserman is a prolific writer and contributor to national and international journals. She has over 200 publications in peer-reviewed journals covering all aspects of breast health from the use of imaging, information systems, immunology, decision-making and health policy. She speaks extensively at public and private forums within the U.S. and internationally.

Dr. Esserman’s guiding principle for research and clinical care is that a patient’s knowledge, participation, and comfort are key to ensuring that a patient receives the best possible care. Dr. Esserman specializes in research that advances the knowledge of providers as well as patients, with the goal of enabling patients to have access to accurate information, so that they can become partners in their health care.

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