The quest for a cure Cancer research at Carolina

Advancing cancer research

UNC-Chapel Hill's world-class cancer research is built on the collaboration of clinicians, researchers and advocates from many disciplines to further the understanding of cancer, improve the quality of patient care and work toward a cancer-free future.

The UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center is the backbone of those efforts. A cancer research and treatment center, Lineberger is the only public comprehensive cancer center in North Carolina and pulls experts from across campus to make groundbreaking discoveries and advances in patient care.

  • 325+faculty members involved in cancer research
  • 40+departments across campus are involved in research
  • 1 of 53National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers

Carolina’s cancer research programs aim to understand the disease at the level of the gene, protein or cell; to develop drugs or treatment strategies to stop cancer in its tracks; and to identify approaches to prevent cancer from occurring. Researchers are working to find a cure or improved treatment for virtually every type of cancer.

Improving treatments,
searching for a cure

  • Chad Pecot sits near a lab bench.

    RNA discoveries drive oncologist’s next chapter

    Chad Pecot specializes in caring for patients with lung cancer and conducts research into how various types of RNAs promote the spread of cancer. His lab at UNC Lineberger also studies how RNA can be engineered into cancer therapies. His focus on RNA has led to an appointment as the director of the newly established UNC RNA Discovery Center, an inclusive community of scientists dedicated to investigating all aspects of RNA biology.

  • A researcher holds a tube of patient cells.

    Clinical Immunotherapy Program

    UNC Lineberger is one of a select few academic centers in the United States — and the only center in North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia — with the scientific, technical and clinical capabilities to identify new tumor targets and then develop and infuse novel CAR-T immunotherapy. CAR-T immunotherapy is the re-engineering of cells from a patient’s immune system to create modified cells that are designed to recognize and direct the attack against the patient’s cancer.

  • A woman overlooks courtyard in Malawi

    UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy collaboration with UNC Project Malawi supported by a NIH grant

    This project’s goal is to validate a new technology for detecting inferior-quality chemotherapy products at the point of use in four countries; Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya and Cameroon. These countries do not conduct post-market surveillance testing on chemotherapy products so there is no good evidence on what percentage of the chemo drugs are adequate quality.

  • Dr. Lisa A. Carey

    Supporting innovative cancer treatments

    A $25 million gift to Lineberger enables the cancer center to advance its groundbreaking research on diagnosing and treating a highly aggressive breast cancer that disproportionately affects Black, Latina and young women and historically has limited research funding.

  • JenJen Yeh

    The Synergistic Scientist

    For years, the only option for doctors treating pancreatic cancer was to prescribe chemotherapy, leaving most patients without a cure and limited improvements to their quality of life. Jen Jen Yeh uses her skills as both a physician surgeon and researcher to develop tools and tests to close gaps in endocrine, melanoma and pancreatic cancer patients’ care through the UNC Department of Surgery and Pharmacology.

  • Catching cancer early

    The Carolina Cancer Screening Initiative leverages the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s expertise in research-backed interventions as well as a network of community, academic and government partners to improve the quality and accessibility of cancer screening programs throughout our state.

Foundational breakthroughs

The cure for cancer won't come as an overnight revelation. The quest for a solution is a series of small steps with researchers across a multitude of disciplines examining cancer at all levels and making breakthroughs that fit another piece into the puzzle.

That's why at Carolina, we have researchers from the School of Medicine, the Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, the Adams School of Dentistry, the School of Nursing and the College of Arts and Sciences working collaboratively to examine cancer from all angles and move the field forward by making the discoveries that will incrementally get us closer to the ever-elusive cure.

  • A DNA double helix

    Scientists at the UNC School of Medicine have made the surprising discovery that a molecule called EdU, which is commonly used in laboratory experiments to label DNA, is, in fact, recognized by human cells as DNA damage, triggering a runaway process of DNA repair that is eventually fatal to affected cells, including cancer cells.

    Learn more about the discovery
  • Once thought incapable of encoding proteins due to their simple monotonous repetitions of DNA, tiny telomeres — DNA structures — at the tips of our chromosomes seem to hold a potent biological function that’s potentially relevant to our understanding of cancer and aging.

    Learn more about the stunning findings
  • Glioblastoma is the most common type of brain tumor in adults. The disease is 100% fatal and there are no cures, making it the most aggressive type of cancer. Such a poor prognosis has motivated researchers and neurosurgeons to understand the biology of tumors with the goal of creating better therapies. Dr. Dominique Higgins, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery, has heeded the call.

    Learn how researchers are collaborating for a cure

As our researchers work in the labs and clinics to take strides toward the challenges cancer presents, they know there are real people behind the challenges they're working to tackle. Tar Heels keep those patients and their families at the center of the mission toward a cure by doing more than treating patients. They're supporting patients, breaking down barriers to care and helping them live healthy lives as cancer survivors.

Click on a story below to see how Carolina is working with patients in their treatment and recovery