NEWS | April 17, 2020

Diana Miglioretti honored with national award for her translational work on breast cancer screening


Diana Miglioretti, dean’s professor and division chief of biostatistics in the department of Public Health Sciences, has won the prestigious Distinguished Investigator Award from the Association of Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS).

Dr. Diana Miglioretti recognized for her research on breast cancer screening. Dr. Diana Miglioretti recognized for her research on breast cancer screening.

The UC Davis School of Medicine nominated Miglioretti for the Distinguished Investigator Award under the “Translation into Public Benefit and Policy” category. This category recognizes achievement in applying translational research findings into effective public policies that promote health or implementation and dissemination of translational solutions.

“I am thrilled and honored to receive this award,” Miglioretti said. “This award acknowledges the importance and impact of the research I am conducting with my colleagues in the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium to develop more effective breast cancer screening strategies.”

Changing the breast cancer screening guidelines

Miglioretti has a personal connection to her research interest: Her great grandmother died in her early 30s from breast cancer, and her grandmother and aunt were diagnosed with breast cancer in their 40s. So, for Miglioretti, breast cancer research combines two of her passions: Family and public health.

Her research focuses on improving the effectiveness of breast cancer screening by taking a more personalized approach that considers both the potential benefits and harms.

“The main benefit of breast cancer screening is early detection, which results in less death from the disease and lower medical complications from aggressive treatment,” Miglioretti said. “Yet, we need to be concerned about the potential harms of screening, such as false positive results that can lead to additional diagnostic tests, benign biopsies and anxiety.”

Miglioretti’s outstanding work on improving breast cancer screening has influenced national screening guidelines. For example, annual screening used to be recommended for all women starting at age 40. Now, the American Cancer Society suggests women in their 40s may elect to go for a screening if they place a higher value on the potential benefits than on potential harm of taking this step. Also, instead of annual screening, women are advised to get a screening every other year. This greatly reduces the potential harms from screening while maintaining most of the benefits. Moreover, the woman’s breast density is now a consideration when deciding if she would benefit from supplemental screening.

“When I started this work, breast cancer screening guidelines took a one-size-fits all-approach for women, just considering their age,” Miglioretti said. “I am very excited that my research has impacted these guidelines and resulted in some changes.”

Miglioretti has received pilot grants from UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC), Placer Breast Cancer Foundation and from UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center to launch Sacramento Area Breast Imaging Registry, a local breast imaging registry that can benefit research and quality improvement.

Miglioretti was scheduled to receive the award at the Translational Science 2020 conference in Washington, DC, on April 15. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the annual meeting met virtually.

Watch the video.

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