The Athena Breast Health Network: developing a rapid learning system in breast cancer prevention, screening, treatment, and care

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013 Jul;140(2):417-25. doi: 10.1007/s10549-013-2612-0. Epub 2013 Jul 26.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Services*
  • Learning*