Left to right: Jeff Ward, Andrew Smitherman, MD, MS, Lauren Lux, LCSW, Jackie Balliot, Simon Davies, and H. Shelton Earp, MD
H. Shelton Earp, MD, announces the gift from Teen Cancer America and First Citizens Bank.

UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, along with national nonprofit Teen Cancer America and Raleigh, N.C.-headquartered First Citizens Bank, announced today it will enhance its Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) cancer program, including expanding its research initiatives and developing plans for a space that serves this age group.

“We’re extremely excited to join with Teen Cancer America and First Citizens Bank as we continue to find new ways to provide state-of-the art, wide-ranging cancer care and research through our AYA program,” said H. Shelton Earp, MD, director of UNC Lineberger. “Together, we share a commitment to improve the quality of life and treatment outcomes for teenagers and young adults who are diagnosed with cancer.”

Over the next few years, UNC Lineberger will expand its research program that is focused on teens and young adults (13 – 30 years old) and hopes to establish dedicated space where patients can receive specialized cancer support within a program and setting designed specifically for them. In many hospitals, there are dedicated cancer programs in facilities for children or older adults, but rarely for teenagers. This new program will help bridge the gap.

The partnership was announced at a news conference today in Chapel Hill, attended by hospital officials, business executives and community leaders. At the event, Teen Cancer America and First Citizens Bank pledged to make a significant financial investment in the further development of the AYA program at UNC Lineberger.

“We want teens battling cancer to feel like teens again, despite facing the biggest challenge of their lives. They have unique social, economic and emotional needs, which can make care more complicated,” said Jeff Ward, who is on the board of directors for Teen Cancer America and is chief strategy officer for First Citizens. The bank has been a major sponsor of Teen Cancer America since 2015 and is a supporter of the new program. “This partnership with UNC Lineberger will enable dedicated research and specialized, targeted care to improve the lives of these teens and their families. We’re proud to support UNC Lineberger and Teen Cancer America in our Triangle headquarters market.”

Andrew Smitherman, MD, MSc, medical director of UNC Lineberger’s AYA program, has been tapped to lead the effort.

“Our goal is to further develop UNC Lineberger as a world-class cancer center focused on AYA research, treatment and care – one that will continue to flourish over time,” Smitherman said. “We’re pleased about the opportunities this partnership will bring.”

Simon Davies, executive director of Teen Cancer America, said UNC Lineberger will be the first cancer center in North Carolina to participate in a partnership with Teen Cancer America.

“I commend UNC Lineberger for its leadership and ongoing commitment to meeting this critical need,” Davies said. “Across the country, one young person is diagnosed with cancer every hour. These teens are counting on us. UNC Lineberger is stepping up to the plate by enhancing its already strong youth-focused cancer program.”

Davies continued: “We’re also excited to complement the outstanding work of the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation, which has supported AYA cancer patients and their families at UNC Hospitals. They’ve recognized the need to help teens with cancer for several years and have made a tremendous difference. We look forward to working in concert with them as the AYA program at UNC Lineberger grows and helps even more young people.

Media Contact: Bill Schaller, 919-962-3405, or Sally Webb, Founding Board Member, Teen Cancer America, 919-459-8778

About UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
The University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill holds the distinction of being one of only 49 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country, and it is the only public comprehensive cancer center in North Carolina. UNC Lineberger faculty conduct research that spans the spectrum from the laboratory to the bedside to the community with the goal of understanding the causes of cancer at the genetic and environmental levels, identifying approaches to improve the prevention and early detection of cancer, and translating scientific findings into pioneering and innovative treatments. Visit

About First Citizens Bank
First Citizens Bank’s sponsorship of Teen Cancer America is its largest-ever corporate philanthropic initiative. The goal is to raise funds, build awareness and partner with hospitals and medical centers to establish new teen cancer units and programs, like the one at UNC Lineberger. The bank’s Teen Cancer America campaign features the powerful theme, “Open the Door,” reflecting the need to create new teen cancer programs across the country. For more information, visit

Founded in 1898, First Citizens Bank ( is the largest family-controlled bank in the U.S., with offices in 21 states. First Citizens Bank is a wholly-owned subsidiary of First Citizens BancShares Inc. (Nasdaq: FCNCA), which has more than $34 billion in assets. First Citizens Bank. Forever First®.

About Teen Cancer America
Following in the footsteps of Teenage Cancer Trust, the successful Teen and Young Adult cancer program in the U.K., Teen Cancer America is designed specifically to help U.S. hospitals and healthcare professionals bridge the gap between pediatric and adult oncology care in America. TCA aims to educate and support hospitals and outpatient facilities in the development of specialized units for the age group from 13 to 25. These units provide sanctuaries where the cancer experience is understood and the importance of living life through the cancer journey is nourished. TCA also brings together physicians and allied healthcare professionals from pediatric and adult oncology so AYA cancer patients can receive the specialized treatments and support that they need. Founded by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, Teen Cancer America is supported by ambassadors, including Eddie Vedder, Joan Jett, Nolan Smith, Victoria Summer, The Band Perry and Daniel Berger. Visit