University News

Dr. Earp to step down as UNC Lineberger director

With the change effective June 2024, Shelton “Shelley” Earp will continue in his role as School of Medicine distinguished professor.

Dr. Shelley Earp
(Photo by Brian Strickland)

Dr. Shelton “Shelley” Earp has announced his intention to step down as director of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, effective June 2024. A national search will commence this fall in the hope of naming a successor in the spring of 2024. Dr. Ned Sharpless, previous director of the National Cancer Institute as well as a previous director of UNC Lineberger (2014-18) will lead the search committee.

Earp has served as UNC Lineberger’s director since 2018. This is his second stint in the role, previously leading the institution from 1997 to 2014. A graduate of the UNC School of Medicine, Earp has been a member of the UNC School of Medicine faculty since 1977. He will continue in his role as Distinguished Professor of Cancer Research, Medicine and Pharmacology.

Under his leadership, UNC Lineberger has become one of the nation’s leading cancer research hubs, connecting faculty from across the University and beyond. Earp has also initiated partnerships with other University of North Carolina System schools, including NC State University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and East Carolina University, recognizing the importance of collaboration in research that leads to new treatments for cancer. The N.C. Basnight Cancer Hospital, clinical home of UNC Lineberger, is ranked as the top cancer center in North Carolina and is among the top 30 nationwide.

Earp’s personal research record is exemplary as well. His lab looks for new therapeutic options to treat a range of cancers including breast, lung, pancreatic and prostate cancer, as well as leukemias and melanoma. He holds patents on certain tumor cell inhibitors and is the co-founder of Meryx, an oncology-focused biopharmaceutical company.

In 2023, Earp was recognized with the O. Max Gardner Award, which honors faculty who have “made the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race.” It is the highest faculty honor at the University of North Carolina.

“The UNC School of Medicine and UNC Health have benefitted greatly from Shelley’s decades of leadership,” said Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health and dean of the UNC School of Medicine. “He has helped bring world class clinician-scientists and researchers together to answer so many complex questions in the field of cancer research and treatment. Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of the people of North Carolina, and Shelley’s work has done that.”