Dr. Song Yao Song Yao, PhD

Song Yao


Specializing In:

Molecular epidemiology Cancer health disparities Cancer immunoepidemiology Cancer biomarkers

Special Interests:

Cancer health disparities Cancer treatment-related complications Cancer biomarkers Vitamin D

About Song Yao


Dr. Song Yao is a molecular cancer epidemiologist with more than a decade of research experience, focusing mostly on breast cancer. He graduated from the Life Sciences College of Peking University in China in 2003 and received his PhD in molecular epidemiology from Roswell Park Division of University at Buffalo in 2009. He continued his post-doctoral fellowship at Roswell Park and was appointed to an Assistant Professor position in 2012 and an Associate Professor position in 2014.


Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Associate Professor of Oncology
  • Department of Cancer Prevention and Control


Education and Training:

  • 2009 - PhD - Molecular Epidemiology, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, NY
  • 2003 - BS - Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China


  • Post-doctoral Fellow - Department of Cancer Prevention and Control, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, NY

Professional Memberships:

  • American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
  • South West Oncology Group (SWOG)


Research Overview:

A major focus of Dr. Yao’s research is to understand the molecular and genetic underpinnings of cancer health disparities. Based on the unique resources with a large number of Black and White breast cancer patients and controls from the Women’s Circle of Health Study (WCHS; PI: Christine Ambrosone, PhD), he has developed and led a number of projects to investigate the roles played by genetic inheritance, vitamin D and host immunity in determining the differential burden of cancer morbidity and mortality between the two racial groups. In particular, he is leading a five-year $6.6 million multiple PI R01 project funded by NCI to characterize the somatic mutational landscape of breast cancer in a total of 3,000 African American women and to examine the etiological relationships between tumor mutations and epidemiological risk factors.

Another major area of Dr. Yao’s research is to identify molecular and genetic predictors of cancer survival and treatment toxicities. This work is mostly based on one of the largest breast cancer survivor cohorts, the Pathways Study (PI: Lawrence Kushi, ScD), which has enrolled 4,505 breast cancer patients through Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) with active follow up since 2006. Dr. Yao’s first R01 award co-led with Dr. Marilyn Kwan at KPNC was to investigate lifestyle, genetic and molecular determinants of aromatase inhibitors-induced fractures in the Pathways Study. He is also leading a large team-effort to perform genome-wide association analysis of common genetic variants with breast cancer survival and toxicities.

At Roswell Park, Dr. Yao also leads a fully-equipped wet laboratory capable of performing various assays and procedures suitable for population studies. As the long-term overarching goal, Dr. Yao is particularly enthusiastic in translational and clinical research to apply scientific findings to cancer patients for better prevention, treatment and survivorship.

The list below shows the completed and active projects that are led by Dr. Yao as a PI or Multiple PI:

  • NCI R01 CA228156 (Yao, Palmer, Zheng, Carpten) 02/01/2019-01/31/2024
    Somatic Mutations and Their Etiological Determinants for Breast Cancer in African American Women
  • NCI R03 CA223730 (Yao, Kelly, Zhu) 12/05/2017-11/30/2019
    Genetic underpinnings of ethnic disparities in bone toxicities between Hispanic and non-Hispanic children treated for acute Lymphoblastic leukemia
  • NCI R01 CA166701 (Kwan, Yao) 09/01/2012-06/30/2019
    Lifestyle and Molecular Factors of Bone Health in Breast Cancer Survivors
  • NCI R03 CA192205 (Yao) 07/15/2015-06/30/2018
    Exome Array Analysis of Reproductive Aging and Breast Cancer in African American Women
  • Susan G. Komen CCR12225973 (Yao) 11/27/2012-11/26/2016
    Noncoding RNA Genetic Variations and Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Outcomes
  • DOD BCRP Predoctoral Training Award (Yao) 04/10/2008-04/09/2011
    Vitamin D, Vitamin D Receptor Polymorphisms, and Breast Cancer Aggressiveness in African American and European American Women.


Full Publications list on PubMed
  • Yao S, Barlow WE, Albain KS, Choi J, Livingston RB, Blanco JG, Davis W, Rae JM, Yeh IT, Hutchins LF, Ravdin PM, Martino S, Lyss AP, Osborne KC, Abeloff M, Hortobagyi GN, Hayes DF, Ambrosone CB. Gene polymorphisms in cyclophosphamide metabolism pathway, treatment-related toxicity and disease-free survival in SWOG 8897 clinical trial for breast cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Dec;16(24):6169-6176. PMID: 21169260. PMCID: PMC3058716.
  • Al-Azhri J, Zhang Y, Bshara W, Zirpoli G, McCann SE, Khoury T, Morrison CD, Edge SB, Ambrosone CB, Yao S. Tumor Expression of Vitamin D Receptor and Breast Cancer Histopathological Characteristics and Prognosis. Clin Cancer Res. 2017 Jan 1;23(1):97-103. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-16-0075. Epub 2016 Jul 12.
  • Yao S, Kwan ML, Ergas IJ, Roh JM, Cheng T, Hong CC, McCann SE, Tang L, Davis W, Liu S, Quesenberry CP, Lee MM, Ambrosone CB, Kushi LH. Higher serum levels of vitamin D at diagnosis predict almost twofold better survival in a prospective cohort of 1,666 women with breast cancer: The Pathways Study. JAMA Oncol. November 10, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.4188 PMID: 27832250
  • Yao S, Hong CC, Ruiz-Narvaez EA, Zhu Q, Schaefer BA, Yan L, Lunetta KL, Haddad SA, Sucheston-Campbell LE, Lee K, Bandera EV, Troester MA, Rosenberg L, Palmer JR, Olshan AF, Ambrosone CB. Environmental and genetic contribution to population differences in systemic levels of inflammatory cytokines in women. PLoS Genet. 2018 Jun 7;14(6):e1007368. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007368. eCollection 2018 Jun. PMID: 29879116
  • Yao S, Hu Q, Kerns S, Yan L, Onitilo AA, Misleh J, Young K, Lei L, Bautista J, Mohamed M, Mohile SG, Ambrosone CB, Liu S, Janelsins MC. Impact of chemotherapy for breast cancer on leukocyte DNA methylation landscape and cognitive function: a prospective NCORP study. Clin Epigenetics. 2019 Mar 12;11(1):45. doi: 10.1186/s13148-019-0641-1. PMID: 30867049