Clear Search

Karen Liby, PhD

Indiana University School of Medicine
Indianapolis, Indiana

Titles and Affiliations

Lois and Sid Eskenazi Chair in Hematology/Oncology
Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology
Full member, Experimental and Developmental Therapeutic

Research area

Identifying alternatives to prophylactic surgery for breast cancer prevention.


Prophylactic mastectomy is an effective risk-reduction strategy for high-risk individuals, but it also places a significant burden on patients. Alternative preventive strategies are greatly needed to help patients avoid the pain and financial costs of surgery and one approach is chemoprevention—the use of drugs to prevent cancer initiation or growth. Dr. Liby’s work focuses on developing new prevention drugs and drug-delivery systems for individuals with a high-risk of breast cancer.

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Liby and her team optimized an innovative strategy in the laboratory to identify safe, well-tolerated new drugs to prevent breast cancer. They found two candidates that are FDA approved, but not for breast cancer. The team is now conducting studies to repurpose these drugs for use breast cancer. Both drugs appear to work in coordination with the immune system. In addition, the team is testing another promising drug that also activates the immune system and increases the expression of multiple genes that predict longer survival in patients with breast cancer compared to patients with very low expression of these genes.

What’s next

The team will continue testing the promising drugs they identified to prevent breast cancer and translate their drug discovery efforts into the clinic. Next steps will include evaluating these drugs in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors currently approved for use in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Additional studies will help identify which patients are likely to benefit most from these drugs and elucidate causes of TNBC that can be targeted by novel precision prevention strategies.


Karen Liby, PhD is the Lois and Sid Eskenazi Chair in Hematology/Oncology and a professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dr. Liby earned her PhD from the University of Cincinnati and then worked with Michael B. Sporn—a pioneer in the field of chemoprevention—at Dartmouth Medical School for 12 years. She was awarded the Wilson S. Stone Memorial Award by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2007.

Her research priorities are to develop and test new drugs and drug combinations for the prevention and treatment of cancer and to explore novel drug delivery systems. She has tested several novel drugs and found that they can both prevent and treat experimental breast cancer and is working to move these drugs into the clinic. She is also studying the molecular mechanism of action of these drugs and identifying and validating biomarkers that will be needed to evaluate these drugs clinically.

BCRF Investigator Since