You are here

Nancy U. Lin, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Clinical Director, Breast Oncology Center
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, Massachusetts

Current Research

  • Seeking strategies to prevent and treat breast cancers metastasis to the brain.
  • Laboratory and clinical studies are employed in the development and testing of new therapies and combination approaches to prevent metastasis and improve response to targeted therapies.
  • These studies are advancing the clinical evaluation of much needed systemic treatment options for patient with breast cancer brain metastasis.

The brain is a common site of breast cancer metastasis, particularly in advanced HER2-positive breast cancer. Breast cancer brain metastasis is a debilitating disease with limited treatment options. Dr. Lin and colleagues are conducting groundbreaking laboratory and clinical research that is advancing new treatments and prevention strategies for patients with brain metastasis.

Full Research Summary

Despite the high frequency of brain metastases, especially in patients with advanced HER2-positive or triple-negative breast cancer, there are currently no FDA-approved systemic treatments for this problem. The standard of care for brain metastasis, as it has been for many decades, is radiation therapy (and surgery in select patients).

Systemic treatments hold the promise of treating tumors in both the brain and body, and potentially delaying or even preventing brain metastases from occurring. Dr. Lin is leading a multi-pronged collaborative effort to evaluate new systemic approaches in patients with brain metastases from breast cancer, including the development of laboratory models to test promising treatments, followed by translation into clinical trials.

Current efforts will focus on three main areas: 1) A phase Ib clinical trial to test a promising combination therapy in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer; 2) Test whether MRI imaging of the brain in patients with metastatic breast cancer, which is currently not standard of care, will improve early detection of brain metastasis and reduce the need for whole brain irradiation; 3) Continue their work in the EMBRACE study.

Phase II clinical study. In her previous BCRF research, Dr. Lin identified new combination therapy that showed promising results in laboratory models of brain metastasis. She is now launching a Phase Ib trial that will test the therapy in patients.

Routing imaging in breast cancer patients to detect early breast cancer brain metastasis. Dr. Lin’s team developed a special procedure for MRI brain imaging that would only require 7 minutes in the MRI machine. This study has the potential to change standard of care.

EMBRACE research study. Over 450 patients with HER2-positive breast cancer have donated blood samples as part of the EMBRACE study. The goals of the study this year are to determine 1) whether the level of circulating tumor DNA provides information that predicts patients' survival and outcomes, 2) to determine if specific markers can predict benefit or lack of benefit to a variety of HER2-based treatments, and 3) to determine the spectrum of changes that occur when tumors become resistant to different treatments.


Dr. Lin is a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Lin received her medical degree at Harvard Medical School and subsequently completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Brigham & Women's Hospital and a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care. Since 2012, she has served as Clinical Director of the Breast Oncology Center at DFCI.

Dr. Lin's focus is on developing novel targeted therapies for patients with advanced breast cancer and exploring mechanisms of drug resistance, with a particular interest in patients with breast cancer that has metastasized to the brain. Dr. Lin is leading multiple ongoing and planned clinical trials evaluating a variety of targeted approaches in patients with metastatic breast cancer. Her work is highly collaborative and involves close working relationships with clinicians, laboratory investigators, and patient advocates. Dr. Lin's honors and awards include a Young Investigator Award and Career Development Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology. She is a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, and Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium.

Large Researcher Headshot - Lin Nancy

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The ANN INC. Award (a division of ascena retail group inc.)