Pediatric Oncologist’s Work Among Top 10 Clinical Research Achievements of 2017

Dr. Daniel “Trey” Lee’s development of a new gene therapy to battle treatment-resistant leukemia in children and young adults was named one of the top 10 clinical research achievements of 2017. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

By Dan Heuchert (reprinted from UVA Today, May 23, 2018)

A University of Virginia School of Medicine researcher’s pioneering work in childhood cancer has been honored as one of the top 10 clinical research achievements of 2017.

Dr. Daniel “Trey” Lee, a pediatric oncologist at UVA’s Children’s Hospital, has been developing a new gene therapy to battle treatment-resistant leukemia in children and young adults. Known as chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR T-cell therapy, the approach genetically modifies a patient’s own immune cells to identify and kill cancer cells.

The Clinical Research Forum, an advocacy group for clinical research, has recognized the groundbreaking work as one of 2017’s most important clinical research studies. Lee conducted the research with colleagues while at the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute, in collaboration with Stanford University. He has continued his work since being recruited to UVA in 2016, where he is part of the UVA Cancer Center and UVA’s Carter Immunology Center. “So many excellent, high-impact clinical trials are performed every year. To have our work chosen as one of the top 10 in the country is an incredible honor,” Lee said. “I am so grateful for our incredible team of investigators, without whom we wouldn’t have such an impact on kids with cancer. Our results have paved the way for combination CAR T-cell therapies in leukemia, aimed at overcoming one of CAR therapy’s major obstacles – tumors changing their proteins to escape CAR T-cells. That we are pioneering this in children, before adults, is amazing.”

The Clinical Research Forum honored the CAR T-cell project and nine others in April at a dinner at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

This is the second consecutive year the Clinical Research Forum has honored a UVA Health System researcher. Last year, the group recognized UVA neurosurgeon Dr. Jeff Elias and his colleague Paul Fishman, a neurologist at the University of Maryland, for their pioneering work with focused ultrasound.

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