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Lisa A. Carey, MD, ScM, FASCO

Deputy Director of Clinical Sciences, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
Preyer Distinguished Professor in Breast Cancer Research
Lineberger Cancer Center
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Current Research

Goal: To understand the evolution of breast cancer metastasis to identify markers of progression and targets for therapy.

Impact: When breast cancer spreads beyond the breast to distant tissues such as lung, liver, brain, or bone—a process called metastasis—it is incurable. In order to improve outcomes for patients with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), we need to understand the unique biology of each MBC. Dr. Carey is utilizing biobanked tissue from clinical trials that enrolled patients with MBC tumors with diverse clinical characteristics. She hopes to learn more about why certain breast cancers spread to specific sites and what their unique vulnerabilities may be so that personalized treatment and preventive strategies can be developed.

What’s next: Dr. Carey will study tumor tissue derived from different types of breast cancer metastasis—those present at the time of primary diagnosis (called de novo), those resulting from recurrent breast cancer, and those that spread to a specific organ but not others—to identify differences in their tumor biology that might inform clinical care.

Studies supported by BCRF have shown that metastatic breast cancers are different from the primary breast cancer from which they evolved. Many changes take place during the tumor evolution including changes to the tumor DNA that cause the tumor to behave a certain way. Dr. Carey is analyzing primary and metastatic tumors to learn why some breast cancers spread to specific organs and how de novo MBC differs from recurrent MBC to understand how best to treat them.

Full Research Summary

Research area: Understanding how different tumors respond to treatment and how tumors that have spread to other tissues vary from the original tumor.

Impact: Understanding how cancer spreads will help inform future clinical trials to treat and potentially cure metastatic breast cancer, but studying MBC is inherently difficult as tumors are smaller and often inaccessible. Even when operable, surgery to remove a metastatic tumor for research purposes is unethical as it does not provide a survival benefit to the patient and could cause harm. Dr. Carey is able to utilize samples obtained during rapid autopsy and clinical trials to study a variety of MBC tumor types to examine how breast cancer spreads from the original breast tumor to distant organs.

Current Investigation: Dr. Carey will look at the unique differences between de novo metastases—those that were present at diagnosis—versus those that developed later, often many years after treatment for the primary cancer ended, to discern differences in tumor biology. By studying the similarities and differences between the original breast cancer and metastatic tumors she hopes to identify unique markers that may help in the development of personalized treatment for all breast cancer patients. 


Lisa A. Carey, MD is the Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor in Breast Cancer Research in the Department of Medicine at the University of North Carolina (UNC). She graduated from Wellesley College, then received her medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where she remained for her residency in Internal Medicine followed by a fellowship in Medical Oncology and an advanced degree in Clinical Investigations. Dr. Carey joined the UNC faculty and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1998. She was the Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology and Physician-in-Chief of the North Carolina Cancer Hospital from 2012-2020. In 2020, Dr. Carey assumed the role of Deputy Director of Clinical Sciences at Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Carey has a longstanding research interest in the clinical application of laboratory findings in breast cancer, with a particular interest in the clinical implications of different molecular subtypes of breast cancer. She designs and leads clinical trials of novel drugs and approaches, and is a close collaborator with several laboratory investigators and epidemiologists. Dr. Carey has served in many roles for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the NCI. She is a member of the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars, the recipient of the NCI Director’s Service Award, and honored to be a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (FASCO). Dr. Carey serves as the co-chair of the Alliance National Cooperative Group Breast Committee since 2016.

Grid Reasercher Headshot - Carey Lisa

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Pink Promises Award in Memory of Sue Decina

Area(s) of Focus