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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Nestlé Waters North America Award

Karen Liby, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Medicine
Geisel School of Medicine
Dartmouth College
Hanover, New Hampshire

Current Research

Women with a mutated breast cancer gene (BRCA) are at exceptionally high risk for developing breast cancer. Currently the only proven preventive strategy for these women is surgical removal of the breasts (bilateral prophylactic mastectomy). There is an urgent need to develop non-invasive, non-surgical alternatives. One such approach is chemoprevention, which is the use of drugs to prevent cancer formation. Drs. Liby and Sporn were the first to show that two drugs (olaparib and veliparib) are effective in delaying tumor formation in experimental models of BRCA1 breast cancer. These drugs belong to the class known as PARP inhibitors, which are currently in clinical trials for treatment of breast and ovarian cancer, but have not been previously investigated for prevention of breast cancer. In their current studies, Drs. Sporn and Liby will test a combination chemoprevention strategy, as a way to increase effectiveness of these drugs, while lowering the toxicity by using lower doses. Their ultimate goal is to develop new preventive drugs that can be safely given to women who are at exceptionally high risk for breast cancer.


Karen Liby earned her PhD from the University of Cincinnati and then joined the laboratory of Michael B. Sporn, a pioneer in the field of chemoprevention. She currently is a member of the Department of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School. She was awarded the Wilson S. Stone Memorial Award by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2007.

Her research priorities are to develop and test new drugs and drugs combinations for the prevention and treatment of cancer. She has tested several novel drugs and found that they can both prevent and treat experimental breast cancer in animals. She is also studying the molecular mechanism of action of these drugs and identifying and validating biomarkers that will needed to evaluate these drugs in the clinic.