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Headshot of Patty Spears
Patty Spears provides advocacy leadership for UNC Lineberger, including leadership of the Patient Advocates for Research Council and is a part of the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology and Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, recognized UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Patty Spears with its Patient Advocate Award, the society’s highest such honor, at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Spears is a leading national voice for patient advocacy and is widely recognized for her contributions to making clinical trials more accessible to people with cancer. Her work is informed by her more than 30 years of laboratory research experience in microbiology and immunology and being a breast cancer survivor for more than 20 years and a recent liver cancer survivor.

“Patty is an incredible leader and advocate for patients, and for doing thoughtful patient-centered research that will improve the lives of cancer patients both today and tomorrow. She is scientifically rigorous, thoughtful, and adds enormously to clinical trials being designed to answer clinical challenges,” said Lisa A. Carey, MD, FASCO, UNC Lineberger Deputy Director, Clinical Sciences and the Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor in Breast Cancer Research at UNC School of Medicine.

“She is also tireless in her efforts to teach young investigators how to describe laboratory work in English, and keeping the focus on the way in which even basic research can be translated into the clinic. Everyone listens when Patty speaks up! We are so proud of her recognition with ASCO’s Patient Advocate Award…but not at all surprised,” Carey added.

Spears is the scientific research manager in the Office of Clinical & Translational Research in Oncology and a patient advocate at UNC Lineberger. She also oversees the cancer center’s Patient Advocates for Research Council, which provides researchers with the perspectives and experiences of patients, survivors and caregivers on issues associated with clinical studies and projects. In addition, she leads the UNC Breast SPORE Advocates and is a member of the UNC Lineberger Office of Community Outreach and Engagement.

She serves on numerous national committees, including as the associate group chair for advocacy, chair of the patient advocate committee and a member of its breast cancer committee for the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology. She has been an advocate for the National Cancer Institute’s National Clinical Trials Network since 2008. She is also a member of the NCI’s Clinical Trials and Translational Research Advisory Committee. She has been a member of several ASCO committees and guidelines panels and is currently a member of the ASCO Breast Cancer Guideline Advisory Group.

“Being recognized for patient advocacy and receiving this award was surprising and is a great honor,” Spears said. “ASCO provides many opportunities for patients to participate of their activities. Through volunteering for ASCO I have learned so much about cancer research and clinical care. Sometimes you wonder if you are making a difference as a patient advocate, this recognition is encouraging and shows the importance of patient advocacy at ASCO.”