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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Smart Circle/RGS Labs International Award

Area(s) of Focus

Adrian Lee, PhD

Professor, Pharmacology and Chemical Biology
Professor, Human Genetics
Director of the Women’s Cancer Research Center,
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and
Magee Women’s Research Institute
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Current Research

Breast tumors are comprised of a heterogeneous mixture of cells with unique genetic profiles. Many scientists believe that this “intra-tumor heterogeneity” (ITH) is responsible for a tumor’s ability to resist therapy or come back after treatment. The long-term goal of Dr. Lee’s research is to understand the importance of ITH in breast cancer progression. During the course of his BCRF studies, Dr. Lee’s group has shown that ITH occurs with mutations in many genes in primary breast cancer and that many new genomic alterations are acquired in recurrence and even during metastatic spread. Some of these mutations, such as those in the estrogen receptor, could be identified in blood (otherwise known as a liquid biopsy) in women with advanced breast cancer and may be therapeutically targeted. In the coming year they will extend these studies to comprehensively examine genomic changes in breast cancer metastases and how the evolution of genomic change is related to ITH. They will focus on mutations in estrogen receptor which may impact response to hormone therapy. The researchers will examine these mutations in a large set of paired primary and metastatic tumors to better understand how often these mutations occur and whether they play a role in metastatic breast cancer. These studies will provide a fundamental understanding as to the role of tumor heterogeneity in breast cancer and will identify new metastasis-specific therapeutic targets.


Dr. Lee is Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, and Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh, and Director of the Women’s Cancer Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and Magee Women’s Research Institute.  Dr. Lee received his B.Sc. 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.