Adrian Lee, PhD

Adrian Lee, PhD

If not for BCRF/PFP, we would not have been able to characterize a novel interaction in breast cancer, which we believe can be targeted clinically.

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

Areas of Focus:  Metastasis and Tumor Biology

Current Research:

  • Seeking to improve response to targeted IGF1R therapies by identifying which patients are most likely to respond.
  • Laboratory studies are ongoing to identify biomarkers to select patients for a clinical trial with IGF1R inhibitors.
  • This work may help to improve the response to a promising drug and outcomes for patients with aggressive breast cancers.

Targeted drugs are designed to target a protein or system in the cancer cell that is driving its growth. In this way, the drugs kill only the cancer cells and spare healthy cells. In spite of promising results in laboratory studies, however, many of these new agents fail in clinical trials. A key to their success in patients is knowing which patients are likely to respond. Dr. Lee is conducting studies to identify a biomarker that may select patients for targeted therapies that could benefit patients with triple negative and invasive lobular breast cancers.

Full Research Summary

Full Research Summary:

The goal of Dr. Lee’s research is to understand the activity of a growth regulating protein called IGF1R in breast cancer. Research has shown that IGF1R is important in both breast development and progression to cancer.

Despite strong laboratory evidence, clinical trials targeting IGF1R have shown only minimal improvements in survival. However, the clinical trials were conducted without any patient selection.

Dr. Lee recently performed a detailed analysis of IGF1R activity in breast cancer. He found that IGF1R is especially active in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and invasive lobular cancer (ILC). Furthermore,  loss of a key cell attachment molecule called E-cadherin increases IGF1R action and may serve as a biomarker for IGFR1-inhibitor therapy.

In the coming year, Dr. Lee’s group will continue to test IGF1R activity in models of TNBC and ILC. They hope to characterize how E-cadherin modulates IGF1R activity and determine  whether E-cadherin may serve as a biomarker of response to IGF1R inhibitors.

In this way, Dr. Lee and his team hope to personalize IGF1R-targeted therapy in breast cancer. They will investigate this further with the goal of developing pre-clinical data to support a biomarker-directed precision medicine clinical trial with IGF1R inhibitors.


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.