John K. Lee, MD, PhD Elected to American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI)

We are pleased to share the news that John Lee, MD, PhD, has been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI). Dr. Lee's membership follows decades of scholarship and leadership as a renowned physician scientist in the field of hematology/oncology. As one of the oldest medical honor societies in the US, one of the few organizations focused on the unique role of physician scientists, and with only a small number of physicians selected as members each year, induction into the ASCI is a pinnacle achievement in the career of a physician scientist. "I feel extremely honored," Dr. Lee shared.

This achievement recognizes the significant strides Dr. Lee has made in advancing our scientific understanding at the intersection of medical oncology, cancer genomics, and immunotherapies for genitourinary cancers. Dr. Lee is currently an associate professor-in-residence in the UCLA Division of Hematology/Oncology, DoM, and the Institute for Urologic Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He completed his clinical training in internal medicine at Boston Medical Center and fellowship through UCLA's STAR Program in medical oncology where he obtained a PhD from the Molecular Biology Institute under the mentorship of Dr. Owen Witte. Specializing in genitourinary oncology, and specifically caring for patients with advanced prostate and bladder cancer, Dr. Lee has intentionally confronted some of the most complex medical challenges in modern patient care for which he's received multiple awards, including the Young Physician-Scientist Awards (YPSA) from ASCI in 2020.

Supplementing this highly specialized patient care is Dr. Lee's advanced research carried out within a federally funded basic and translational research laboratory within the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center that he leads. The lab is focused on three main areas:

  • Deciphering gene interactions that drive cancer initiation/progression and establish distinct cancer states
  • Advancing immunotherapies for clinical translation in prostate and bladder cancer
  • Working to make such immunotherapies more effective, especially for solid tumors.

The laboratory doesn't stop at their research findings, however, as Dr. Lee's team brings all basic science discoveries from the bench back to the bedside to more effectively treat prostate and bladder cancer. Dr. Lee shared that this interface between medicine and science is what initially drew him to the field of medicine, and keeps him here:

"I was always drawn to the interface of medicine and science," he shared, "especially oncology, which is a field that's transformed very rapidly via new advances in research. These findings have led to practice changing approaches that have improved care. I don't want to practice the same type of medicine throughout my career. I want to be working with new technologies that are rapidly adapting to the benefit of patients. Oncology is exactly one of those fields that is always rapidly evolving, and being at the center of that is really fulfilling."

Dr. Lee is eager to continue this work and apply learnings to other types of cancer as well. In medicine, "we have to follow the science," he says, "and sometimes the science relevant to [one area, like] prostate cancer may apply elsewhere like sarcoma, for instance. If you stay in a box, you're not taking full advantage of what science has to offer. At this stage in my career, I'm starting to branch out a bit more."

Dr. Lee feels strongly that ASCI membership will push him to branch out, and to reach for even more ambitious goals. "Looking at what some of the senior members of ASCI have been able to achieve in their careers sets an aspirational goal to really push forward scientific discoveries that promote human health. Induction is a huge honor, but there's a lot more work to be done, and it's great to be among a community of other physician scientists who are like minded and have similar goals."

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