The athena breast health network: Developing a rapid learning system in breast cancer prevention, screening, treatment, and care

Sarah L. Elson, Robert A. Hiatt, Hoda Anton-Culver, Lydia P Howell, Arash Naeim, Barbara A. Parker, Laura J. Van'T Veer, Michael Hogarth, John P. Pierce, Robert J. Duwors, Kathy Hajopoulos, Laura J. Esserman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The term breast cancer covers many different conditions, whose clinical course ranges from indolent to aggressive. However, current practice in breast cancer prevention and care, and in breast cancer epidemiology, does not take into account the heterogeneity of the disease. A comprehensive understanding of the etiology and progression of different breast cancer subtypes would enable a more patient-centered approach to breast health care: assessing an individual's risk of getting specific subtypes of the disease, providing risk-based screening and prevention recommendations, and, for those diagnosed with the disease, tailored treatment options based on risk and timing of progression and mortality. The Athena Breast Health Network is an initiative of the five University of California medical and cancer centers to prototype this approach and to enable the development of a rapid learning system - connecting risk and outcome information from a heterogeneous patient population in real time and using new knowledge from research to continuously improve the quality of care. The Network is based on integrating clinical and research processes to create a comprehensive approach to accelerating patient-centered breast health care. Since its inception in 2009, the Network has developed a multi-site, transdisciplinary collaboration that enables the learning system. The five-campus collaboration has implemented a shared informatics platform, standardized electronic patient intake questionnaires, and common biospecimen protocols, as well as new clinical programs and multi-center research projects. The Athena Breast Health Network can serve as a model of a rapid learning system that integrates epidemiologic, behavioral, and clinical research with clinical care improvements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-425
Number of pages9
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Breast cancer
  • Learning healthcare system
  • Precision medicine
  • Transdisciplinary science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research
  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The athena breast health network: Developing a rapid learning system in breast cancer prevention, screening, treatment, and care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this