In the News
Oct 20 2022

Physician Scientist to Lead Breast Oncology Program

Yuan Yuan, MD, PhD, Specializes in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Immunotherapy and Has a Passion for Community and Patient Care

Yuan Yuan, MD, PhD

Yuan Yuan, MD, PhD, a breast medical oncologist and physician scientist who specializes in triple-negative breast cancer and breast cancer immunotherapy, has joined Cedars-Sinai Cancer as director of Breast Oncology. Yuan will treat patients at Cedars-Sinai and at Huntington Cancer Center, an affiliate of Cedars-Sinai Cancer.

“Dr. Yuan is a key part of the continuous growth happening at Cedars-Sinai Cancer,” said Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of Cedars-Sinai Cancer and the PHASE ONE Distinguished Chair. “Her research, clinical expertise and passion for patients and the community will advance our translational research goals and bring ever-increasing options for improved clinical care as well as national leadership in breast cancer.”

Yuan, whose training includes a fellowship in hematology and medical oncology at New York University Medical Center and a rotation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, received her medical degree in China and holds a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of California, Riverside.

Yuan’s research focus is triple-negative breast cancer, a fast-growing and often aggressive form of the disease.   

“It has always been the most challenging to treat, even now with the arrival of immunotherapies,” Yuan said. “The overall survival for patients with stage 4 triple-negative breast cancer remains challenging, largely due to complex tumor biology and chemotherapy resistance. It’s a devastating disease and my work is dedicated to implementing precision medicine and finding cutting-edge therapies to bring better survival and quality of life to patients.”

To that end, Yuan’s research aims to expand the number of triple-negative breast cancer patients who can benefit from immune checkpoint inhibitors—a number that currently stands at just 30 percent. She and her team are testing a novel immunotherapy combination to turn “immune-cold” tumors, which cannot be penetrated by the body’s immune system, into “immune-hot” tumors that readily respond to immunotherapies. She is also working closely with the Cedars-Sinai cell therapy team to bring first-in-class immunotherapy treatments to patients with solid tumors, including breast cancers.  

“Cedars-Sinai Cancer serves the most diverse group of patients in the country, and I’m looking forward to working with my fellow breast oncologists to advance new concepts and bring access to novel precision-medicine-driven clinical trials to benefit patients here—and globally,” Yuan said.

Yuan, who most recently served as medical director of breast cancer immunotherapy at City of Hope, speaks Mandarin and places patient care front and center.

“I care for a lot of stage 4 patients, including young moms,” Yuan said. Being a mother of two, I can only begin to imagine the challenges. I admire my patients who have the courage to deal with what they have to go through, and this is what drives me.”

In the coming years, Yuan’s goal is for the Breast Oncology Program to grow to serve the growing number of patients seeking access to clinical trials, and to expand its scientific endeavors and continue pursuing state-of-the-art research into every breast cancer subtype. Every breast cancer patient—even those with more treatable disease—faces unique challenges, Yuan said. So another goal is to build supports for breast cancer patients at every stage.

“I want to help them deal with treatment side effects, stay on their medications and manage their disease,” she said. “We can’t cure all breast cancer patients today, but there is huge potential to keep pushing forward with our research, expanding options for our community and bringing our patients hope.”