Women's College Research Institute

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Kelly Metcalfe, PhD

Adjunct Scientist, Women's College Research Institute
Professor, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing and Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
Bloomberg Professorship in Cancer Genetics, University of Toronto

With the discovery of BRCA1 and BRCA2, the genes linked to hereditary breast cancer, there was an urgent need for healthcare providers to also understand the clinical implications of a positive mutation diagnosis. Research identified a heightened risk for breast and ovarian cancer for BRCA mutation carriers, however there was little information on how to counsel patients on what it meant in terms of prevention and treatment options. Kelly Metcalfe, PhD, has focused her research on closing this gap and understanding the psychosocial implications of genetic testing for BRCA mutations in women, men and their families.

Metcalfe is a part of the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit, which has developed the largest known database of North American women with hereditary cancer, including pathology and treatment. Using her background as an oncology nurse, Metcalfe has focused on identifying gaps in hereditary cancer research that have significant impact on patients’ experiences and outcomes. Her research has shown that bilateral mastectomy and oophorectomy, as a treatment for breast cancer, can reduce the risk of dying by half, helping women with BRCA mutations make informed decisions regarding the prevention and treatment of their breast cancer.  

Metcalfe is currently investigating the benefits of providing rapid genetic testing at the time of breast cancer diagnosis so that women can personalize their treatment based on BRCA status. Genetic testing has improved immensely in both quality and speed, allowing healthcare providers to share valuable information with women before they need to make decisions around surgery and treatment. Metcalfe launched the study to examine how knowledge of a BRCA mutation at the time of breast cancer diagnosis could influence decision-making, as women with a BRCA mutation are more likely to choose to undergo preventative surgical options to minimize their risk. The study is also assessing how women feel before and after receiving the results of their genetic testing to ensure that providers are not creating an undue hardship on these women. Metcalfe hopes that the results of this research will help to expand the availability of rapid genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients across the country. 

Select Awards

  • Scholarship into Practice Award, Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (2016)
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (2016)
  • Outstanding Paper Award, Women’s College Research Institute (2015)
  • Award for Excellence in Nursing Research, Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (2014)
  • Excellence in Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Award, the Oncology Nursing Society (2008)


See my peer-reviewed publications

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PhD, Medical Science, University of Toronto, 2002

BScN, University of Western Ontario, 1996

Areas of Interest

Breast cancer

Genetic testing

  • Fully affiliated with:
  • University of Toronto

  • A member of:
  • Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO)