Kala Visvanathan, M.B.B.S., M.H.S.

Headshot of Kala Visvanathan
  • Director of Clinical Cancer Genetics and Prevention Service, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center
  • Joint Appointment in Oncology


Breast Cancer, Cancer Genetics, Cancer Prevention, Medical Oncology, Ovarian Cancer ...read more

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Dr. Visvanathan is a Professor on faculty at Johns Hopkins. She is a practicing medical oncologist and cancer epidemiologist focused on translating discoveries to the clinic and population as a whole. She directs the Clinical Cancer Genetics and Prevention service at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center (SKCCC) and is an active member of the Breast and Ovarian Program and Cancer Prevention and Control Program. Dr. Visvanathan is also Director of the Cancer Epidemiology Track in the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

With her research centered on primary and secondary prevention of breast and ovarian cancer, her goal is to reduce the incidence of and mortality from breast cancer globally by conducting impactful studies at the local, national, and international levels. Specifically, she focuses on the identification of atrisk groups, potential biomarkers of risk and prognosis and evaluation of preventive agents across the continuum. She conducts both observational studies and early phase clinical trials. She also teaches and mentors the next generation of clinicians and cancer researchers. 

Dr. Visvanathan has also served on national committees focused on Breast Cancer Risk Reduction, Breast Cancer Genetics and Cancer Disparities. She has also co-chaired National Guidelines on Breast Cancer Endocrine Prevention. Locally, serving on the Maryland State Cancer Council.

Dr. Visvanathan received her medical degree from the University of Sydney in Australia. She subsequently went on to complete training in internal medicine and medical oncology, including a period as chief resident at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. She then did further training in Medical Oncology at Johns Hopkins and also obtained a master’s degree in clinical/cancer epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This was followed by a postdoctoral fellow before coming on to faculty in both the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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  • Director of Clinical Cancer Genetics and Prevention Service, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center
  • Joint Appointment in Oncology

Departments / Divisions

  • Oncology - Cancer Prevention and Control and Viral Oncology

Centers & Institutes



  • MBBS; Faculty of Medicine University of Sydney (1989)


  • Medical Oncology & Hematology; Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (1996)


  • Oncology; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (2003)

Research & Publications

Clinical Trial Keywords

high risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer

Selected Publications

Gallicchio, L.; Miller, S.R.; Visvanathan, K.; Lewis, L.M.; Babus, J.; Zacur, H.; Flaws, J.A. Cigarette smoking, estrogen levels, and hot flashes in midlife women. Maturitas. 2006 Jan 20;53(2):133-143.

Platz, E.A.; Leitzmann, M.F.; Visvanathan, K.; Rimm, E.B.; Stampfer, M.J.; Willett, W.C.; Giovannucci, E. Statin drugs and risk of advanced prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006 Dec 20;98(24):1819-1825.

Visvanathan, K.; Santor, D.; Ali, S.Z.; Hong, I.S.; Davidson, N.E.; Helzlsouer, K.J. The importance of cytologic intrarater and interrater reproducibility: the case of ductal lavage. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Dec;15(12):2553-2556.

Visvanathan, K.; Sukumar, S.; Davidson, N.E. Epigenetic biomarkers and breast cancer: cause for optimism. Clin Cancer Res. 2006 Nov 15;12(22):6591-6593.

Visvanathan, K.; Warren, J. Retrograde stenting of transplant ureters using a ureteral access sheath. The Canadian journal of urology. 2006 Jun;13(3):3156-3157.

Chang, J.J.; Thompson, A.J.; Visvanathan, K.; Kent, S.J.; Cameron, P.U.; Wightman, F.; Desmond, P.; Locarnini, S.A.; Lewin, S.R. The phenotype of hepatitis B virus-specific T cells differ in the liver and blood in chronic hepatitis B virus infection. Hepatology. 2007 Nov;46(5):1332-1340.

Cornblatt, B.S.; Ye, L.; Dinkova-Kostova, A.T.; Erb, M.; Fahey, J.W.; Singh, N.K.; Chen, M.S.; Stierer, T.; Garrett-Mayer, E.; Argani, P.; Davidson, N.E.; Talalay, P.; Kensler, T.W.; Visvanathan, K. Preclinical and clinical evaluation of sulforaphane for chemoprevention in the breast. Carcinogenesis. 2007 Jul;28(7):1485-1490.

Gallicchio, L.; Visvanathan, K.; Burke, A.; Hoffman, S.C.; Helzlsouer, K.J. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the risk of developing breast cancer in a population-based prospective cohort study in Washington County, MD. Int J Cancer. 2007 Jul 1;121(1):211-215.

Jorgensen, T.J.; Visvanathan, K.; Ruczinski, I.; Thuita, L.; Hoffman, S.; Helzlsouer, K.J. Breast cancer risk is not associated with polymorphic forms of xeroderma pigmentosum genes in a cohort of women from Washington County, Maryland. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2007 Jan;101(1):65-71.

Pathirana, R.D.; O''Brien-Simpson, N.M.; Visvanathan, K.; Hamilton, J.A.; Reynolds, E.C. Flow cytometric analysis of adherence of Porphyromonas gingivalis to oral epithelial cells. Infect Immun. 2007 May;75(5):2484-2492.

Thompson, A.; Locarnini, S.; Visvanathan, K. The natural history and the staging of chronic hepatitis B: time for reevaluation of the virus-host relationship based on molecular virology and immunopathogenesis considerations? Gastroenterology. 2007 Sep;133(3):1031-1035.

Visvanathan, K.; Crum, R.M.; Strickland, P.T.; You, X.; Ruczinski, I.; Berndt, S.I.; Alberg, A.J.; Hoffman, S.C.; Comstock, G.W.; Bell, D.A.; Helzlsouer, K.J. Alcohol dehydrogenase genetic polymorphisms, low-to-moderate alcohol consumption, and risk of breast cancer. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research. 2007 Mar;31(3):467-476.

Visvanathan, K.; Santor, D.; Ali, S.Z.; Brewster, A.; Arnold, A.; Armstrong, D.K.; Davidson, N.E.; Helzlsouer, K.J. The reliability of nipple aspirate and ductal lavage in women at increased risk for breast cancer-a potential tool for breast cancer risk assessment and biomarker evaluation. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007 May;16(5):950-955.

Bransfield, L.A.; Rennie, A.; Visvanathan, K.; Odwin, S.A.; Kensler, T.W.; Yager, J.D.; Friesen, M.D.; Groopman, J.D. Formation of two novel estrogen guanine adducts and HPLC/MS detection of 4-hydroxyestradiol-N7-guanine in human urine. Chemical research in toxicology. 2008 Aug;21(8):1622-1630.
Kurman, R.J.; Visvanathan, K.; Roden, R.; Wu, T.C.; Shih Ie, M. Early detection and treatment of ovarian cancer: shifting from early stage to minimal volume of disease based on a new model of carcinogenesis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Apr;198(4):351-356.

Sutcliffe, S.; Visvanathan, K.; Platz, E.A. Use of Epidemiology in Oncology. In: Abeloff, M.D.; Armitage, J.O.; Niederhuber, J.E.; Kastan, M.B.; McKenna, G., editors. 4th ed, Clinical Oncology. Philadelphia: Elsevier Inc.; 2008.

van Bemmel, D.M.; Visvanathan, K.; Beane Freeman, L.E.; Coble, J.; Hoppin, J.A.; Alavanja, M.C. S-ethyl-N,N-dipropylthiocarbamate exposure and cancer incidence among male pesticide applicators in the agricultural health study: a prospective cohort. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Nov;116(11):1541-1546.

Bergeron-Sawitzke, J.; Gold, B.; Olsh, A.; Schlotterbeck, S.; Lemon, K.; Visvanathan, K.; Allikmets, R.; Dean, M. Multilocus analysis of age-related macular degeneration. Eur J Hum Genet. 2009 Sep;17(9):1190-1199.

Berrington de Gonzalez, A.; Berg, C.D.; Visvanathan, K.; Robson, M. Estimated risk of radiation-induced breast cancer from mammographic screening for young BRCA mutation carriers. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009 Feb 4;101(3):205-209.

Horne, K.C.; Li, X.; Jacobson, L.P.; Palella, F.; Jamieson, B.D.; Margolick, J.B.; Martinson, J.; Turkozu, V.; Visvanathan, K.; Woolley, I.J. Duffy antigen polymorphisms do not alter progression of HIV in African Americans in the MACS cohort. Cell Host Microbe. 2009 May 8;5(5):415-417; author reply 418-419.

Jorgensen, T.J.; Helzlsouer, K.J.; Clipp, S.C.; Bolton, J.H.; Crum, R.M.; Visvanathan, K. DNA repair gene variants associated with benign breast disease in high cancer risk women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009 Jan;18(1):346-350.

Nassar, H.; Sharafaldeen, B.; Visvanathan, K.; Visscher, D. Ductal carcinoma in situ in African American versus Caucasian American women: analysis of clinicopathologic features and outcome. Cancer. 2009 Jul 15;115(14):3181-3188.

Tsilidis, K.K.; Helzlsouer, K.J.; Smith, M.W.; Grinberg, V.; Hoffman-Bolton, J.; Clipp, S.L.; Visvanathan, K.; Platz, E.A. Association of common polymorphisms in IL10, and in other genes related to inflammatory response and obesity with colorectal cancer. Cancer Causes Control. 2009 Nov;20(9):1739-1751.

Visvanathan, K.; Chlebowski, R.T.; Hurley, P.; Col, N.F.; Ropka, M.; Collyar, D.; Morrow, M.; Runowicz, C.; Pritchard, K.I.; Hagerty, K.; Arun, B.; Garber, J.; Vogel, V.G.; Wade, J.L.; Brown, P.; Cuzick, J.; Kramer, B.S.; Lippman, S.M. American society of clinical oncology clinical practice guideline update on the use of pharmacologic interventions including tamoxifen, raloxifene, and aromatase inhibition for breast cancer risk reduction. J Clin Oncol. 2009 Jul 1;27(19):3235-3258.

Wang, L.; Brune, K.A.; Visvanathan, K.; Laheru, D.; Herman, J.; Wolfgang, C.; Schulick, R.; Cameron, J.L.; Goggins, M.; Hruban, R.H.; Klein, A.P. Elevated cancer mortality in the relatives of patients with pancreatic cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009 Nov;18(11):2829-2834.

Gross, A.L.; Kurman, R.J.; Vang, R.; Shih Ie, M.; Visvanathan, K. Precursor lesions of high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma: morphological and molecular characteristics. J Oncol. 2010;2010:126295.

Moorman, P.G.; Iversen, E.S.; Marcom, P.K.; Marks, J.R.; Wang, F.; Lee, E.; Ursin, G.; Rebbeck, T.R.; Domchek, S.M.; Arun, B.; Susswein, L.; Isaacs, C.; Garber, J.E.; Visvanathan, K.; Griffin, C.A.; Sutphen, R.; Brzosowicz, J.; Gruber, S.; Finkelstein, D.M.; Schildkraut, J.M. Evaluation of established breast cancer risk factors as modifiers of BRCA1 or BRCA2: a multi-center case-only analysis. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2010 Nov;124(2):441-451.

Schonfeld, S.J.; Pee, D.; Greenlee, R.T.; Hartge, P.; Lacey, J.V., Jr.; Park, Y.; Schatzkin, A.; Visvanathan, K.; Pfeiffer, R.M. Effect of changing breast cancer incidence rates on the calibration of the Gail model. J Clin Oncol. 2010 May 10;28(14):2411-2417.

Ueda, S.M.; Yap, K.L.; Davidson, B.; Tian, Y.; Murthy, V.; Wang, T.L.; Visvanathan, K.; Kuhajda, F.P.; Bristow, R.E.; Zhang, H.; Shih Ie, M. Expression of Fatty Acid Synthase Depends on NAC1 and Is Associated with Recurrent Ovarian Serous Carcinomas. J Oncol. 2010;2010:285191.

Wolpin, B.M.; Kraft, P.; Xu, M.; Steplowski, E.; Olsson, M.L.; Arslan, A.A.; Bueno-de-Mesquita, H.B.; Gross, M.; Helzlsouer, K.; Jacobs, E.J.; LaCroix, A.; Petersen, G.; Stolzenberg-Solomon, R.Z.; Zheng, W.; Albanes, D.; Allen, N.E.; Amundadottir, L.; Austin, M.A.; Boutron-Ruault, M.C.; Buring, J.E.; Canzian, F.; Chanock, S.J.; Gaziano, J.M.; Giovannucci, E.L.; Hallmans, G.; Hankinson, S.E.; Hoover, R.N.; Hunter, D.J.; Hutchinson, A.; Jacobs, K.B.; Kooperberg, C.; Mendelsohn, J.B.; Michaud, D.S.; Overvad, K.; Patel, A.V.; Sanchez, M.J.; Sansbury, L.; Shu, X.O.; Slimani, N.; Tobias, G.S.; Trichopoulos, D.; Vineis, P.; Visvanathan, K.; Virtamo, J.; Wactawski-Wende, J.; Watters, J.; Yu, K.; Zeleniuch-Jacquotte, A.; Hartge, P.; Fuchs, C.S. Variant ABO blood group alleles, secretor status, and risk of pancreatic cancer: results from the pancreatic cancer cohort consortium. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Dec;19(12):3140-3149.

Zheng, W.; Danforth, K.N.; Tworoger, S.S.; Goodman, M.T.; Arslan, A.A.; Patel, A.V.; McCullough, M.L.; Weinstein, S.J.; Kolonel, L.N.; Purdue, M.P.; Shu, X.O.; Snyder, K.; Steplowski, E.; Visvanathan, K.; Yu, K.; Zeleniuch-Jacquotte, A.; Gao, Y.T.; Hankinson, S.E.; Harvey, C.; Hayes, R.B.; Henderson, B.E.; Horst, R.L.; Helzlsouer, K.J. Circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer: Cohort Consortium Vitamin D Pooling Project of Rarer Cancers. Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Jul 1;172(1):70-80.
Heaphy, C.M.; Subhawong, A.P.; Gross, A.L.; Konishi, Y.; Kouprina, N.; Argani, P.; Visvanathan, K.; Meeker, A.K. Shorter telomeres in luminal B, HER-2 and triple-negative breast cancer subtypes. Mod Pathol. 2011 Nov 5;24(2):194-200.
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