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Behind every photo is a story with the power to uplift and inspire.

One year has made all the difference for Frances Lucas from Fayetteville, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2020. And, it was something Dr. Yara Abdou said that set the tone for her journey.

“She said, ‘I’m not only going to be your doctor, I want to be your friend,’ ” recalls Frances from her first appointment.

Yara Abdou, MD, and patient Frances Lucas.

Last December Frances had a mastectomy at N.C. Cancer Hospital. Although treatment meant traveling back and forth to Chapel Hill, Frances didn’t mind. “I was always excited to go and see her.”

Frances received chemotherapy from January to May 2021. “When I couldn’t eat, she pushed me. She’d say you’ve got to push your way through this.” And Frances did.

Along the way, Frances started designing t-shirts with inspiring messages, which she donated to other cancer patients at N.C. Cancer Hospital. To show her appreciation, Frances recently presented a selection of special gifts to Dr. Abdou.

Learn more about patient care.

Advancing Research

UNC takes a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating patients with breast cancer. Through the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, exceptional physicians and scientists are investigating and improving the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer in North Carolina and across the globe.

Following are just a few of the many research efforts led by faculty in the Department of Medicine.

  • Yara Abdou, MD, assistant professor in oncology, is investigating Survivin as a new target to improve outcomes of breast cancer in Black women.
  • Lisa A. Carey, MD, the L. Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor for Breast Cancer Research, co-leads a breast cancer study that looks at genetic susceptibility for breast cancer subtypes in African Americans and Whites. She also co-leads a study focused on the development and validation of biomarkers and targets in triple negative breast cancers.
  • Jon Serody, MD, chief of the division of hematology, and Claire Dees, MD, professor in oncology, are conducting research targeting the infiltrating immune cells in claudin-low and basal-type tumors.
  • Claire Dees, MD, and Yara Abdou, MD, are also conducting a first in human trial of CAR-macrophages targeted against HER2 positive advanced cancer.
  • The breast cancer clinical trials group, led by Claire Dees, MD, and Lisa Carey, MD, has a robust portfolio of clinical trials for all stages of breast cancer. Find a trial here.
  • Emily Ray, MD, MPH, assistant professor in oncology, focuses on the development of predictive models in an effort to accurately determine breast cancer prognosis in late stage breast cancer patients.
  • A qualitative research study led by Kirsten Nyrop, PhD, assistant professor in oncology, focuses on understanding how clinicians can discuss weight management with breast cancer survivors, to decrease racial disparities in obesity-related comorbidities that can affect survivorship. Co-investigators are Hyman B. Muss, MD, Mary Jones Hudson Distinguished Professor of Geriatric Oncology, and Marjory Charlot, MD, MPH, MSc, assistant professor in oncology. Separately, Charlot is leading research for a patient-centered mobile health app to increase the participation of Black women in breast cancer clinical trials.
  • Katherine E. Reeder-Hayes, MD, MPH, MSc, associate professor in oncology, is pursuing ways to optimize cancer outcomes for people of color by identifying and eliminating systemic race-related barriers and disparities in the delivery of care that impact outcomes across all cancer types.

Learn more about breast cancer research at UNC Lineberger.