Titles and Affiliations

Pittsburgh Foundation Chair and Director, Institute for Precision Medicine
Professor, Pharmacology & Chemical Biology, and Human Genetics
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and
Magee Women’s Research Institute
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Research area

Improving treatment for invasive lobular breast cancer by inhibiting tumor growth.


Dr. Lee is investigating the role of the growth factor receptor insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1R) in the growth of invasive lobular breast cancer (ILC). IGF1R is known to play a role in the formation and growth of several types of cancer, including breast cancer, and may be particularly important for the growth of ILC. Dr. Lee has shown that loss of a gene called CDH1, which occurs in nearly all ILC, increases the activity of growth factor receptors. He aims to test whether inhibiting growth factor pathways, like IGF1R, may represent a new therapeutic approach for ILC.

Progress Thus Far

In the last year, Dr. Lee and his team have continued to study unique features of invasive lobular cancer (ILC) and how growth factors such as IGFR1 may drive the growth of this subtype of disease. They have made significant progress in understanding a role for the IGF1R pathway in ILC using laboratory models. Dr. Lee and his team discovered that reduction of E-cadherin resulting from a loss of CDH1 increases sensitivity to other growth, not just IGFR1.

What’s next

Dr. Lee will examine the role of E-cadherin in regulating growth factor activity in breast cancer, particularly ILC. He will test the idea that ILC is surrounded in a growth factor-rich tumor microenvironment, and that this, combined with loss of E-cadherin repression of GFRs, leads to hyper-activation of growth factor signaling in ILC.


Dr. Lee is the Pittsburgh Foundation Chair and Director of the Institute for Precision Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC. He is Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, and Professor of Human Genetics, at UPM Hillman Cancer Center and Magee Women’s Research Institute. Dr. Lee received his BSc and PhD in England, and came to San Antonio for his postdoctoral studies. He was subsequently recruited to Baylor College of Medicine and now the University of Pittsburgh.

The goal of Dr. Lee’s laboratory is to translate basic cell and molecular research findings into the understanding and treatment of breast cancer. Dr Lee serves on numerous other national peer-review committees, and is on the Scientific Advisory Council for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

BCRF Investigator Since


Areas of Focus