Dr. Lisa Carey, a nationally recognized breast cancer expert and physician at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, became Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology in September 2012 at the UNC School of Medicine and Physician-in-Chief of the N.C. Cancer Hospital.
As Division Chief, Dr. Carey is responsible for the overall administration of the Division, which includes more than 50 clinicians, investigators, fellows, and physician extenders. As Physician-in-Chief, she leads clinical operations at the hospital to coordinate care for more than 135,000 cancer patients a year.
“Dr. Carey is exactly the right leader for these key roles,” said Dr. William L. Roper, MD, MPH, Dean of the UNC School of Medicine and the CEO of UNC Health Care. “This is an area of great importance to our health care system, and to the people of North Carolina.”
A member of the UNC faculty for more than 10 years, Dr. Carey is the Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor in Breast Cancer Research, Professor of Medicine, Medical Director of the UNC Breast Center, and Associate Director for Clinical Research at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. She also had a featured role in the Society for Translational Oncology (STO)’s third annual meeting, held in October 2012 in Chapel Hill, where she spoke about the value of prognostic testing in guiding treatment decisions for certain types of breast cancer.
“Meetings like [the STO] are designed to be clinically relevant and important for translation,” Dr. Carey said. “This is a rapidly changing field, and people are always trying to get a better handle on the clinical implications of the biological and physical factors in various tumor types.”
Dr. Carey has been a key leader in North Carolina’s breast cancer research, co-leading the UNC Breast Cancer SPORE (Special Programs of Research Excellence) project and working with colleagues on the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, a long-term investigation of racial disparities in breast cancer development and mortality. She also leads a group of UNC clinician researchers testing a range of new drugs in different molecular subtypes of breast cancer. Her other research interests include evaluation of new chemotherapy agents in early breast cancer, and examination of tumor characteristics that predict response to therapy. Her research articles have been published by The Oncologist and several other international oncology journals.
“Understanding the underlying biology of a cancer is so important. The heterogeneity of breast cancer – which is true of other types of tumors as well – means that we need to identify targetable problems with that cancer specifically, and use a combination of strategies to hit the Achilles heel of that cancer,” she said. “We also need to work in partnership with the individual patient because sometimes it’s hard to figure out why a certain treatment works in one person and not in another. We need to know the biology of the individual tumor, but also the biology of the individual patient. It’s important to marry the clinical and the scientific aspects in a way that’s cohesive.”
As Physician-in-Chief, Dr. Carey works closely with Dr. Shelley Earp, MD, Director of UNC Lineberger and UNC Cancer Care, to coordinate care of cancer patients. “Dr. Carey is recognized internationally as one of the world’s most thoughtful clinician investigators,” Dr. Earp said. “Her mastery of cancer biology and genetics and their application to improving patients’ lives sets her apart. This type of interdisciplinary leadership combined with her consummate clinical skills, will provide remarkable direction as the division prepares for the new era of cancer care.”
Board-certified in both Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology, Dr. Carey serves on several national cancer committees, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI) committee that reviews and approves all NCI breast cancer trials. She led the first trial looking at a new drug regimen in the triple negative breast cancer subtype, and is the principal investigator on several clinical trials conducted at UNC and across the nation that are investigating new drugs and approaches in breast cancer. For example, she is the principal investigator of a national study of new drug combinations in HER2-positive breast cancer, and leads a highly collaborative study examining genes that might interact with other genes or with the environment to affect a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
“Breast cancer research has been a historically collaborative community. People work together across the country, and there’s a shared mission that gets carried forward,” Dr. Carey said. “There is a lot of translation happening – a lot of research that’s directly applied to patient care.”
Dr. Carey was awarded a Doris Duke Clinician Scientist Award in 1999, a Career Development Award from the National Cancer Institute in 2000, was inducted into Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars in 2008, and received the NCI Director’s Service Award in 2011. This year she was named to the Board of Trustees of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. A Wellesley College graduate, Dr. Carey received her medical degree and completed her residency at Johns Hopkins University, where she also served as a fellow in medical oncology and earned an advanced degree in clinical investigations.
Dr. Carey views her new positions as allowing her to play a larger role in research and clinical collaborations at UNC. “In the clinical realm, I can be part of a broader scope that includes other tumor types. Where your tumor comes from is less important than the biology of that tumor,” she said. “As a division, we are all moving together in genomics research.”