“The 21st century is the century of biological sciences... I am very hopeful and very excited too. We are at the right time to make progress in fighting against lung cancer.” – J. Jack Lee, PhD
Jack Lee didn’t start his career planning to be a world-class biostatistician. He began as a dentist in Taiwan where he encountered many patients suffering from oral cancer that was often due to chewing betel nut or using tobacco. The more he learned about his cancer patients, the more he wanted to conduct research to help them.
After getting a PhD in biostatistics from the University of California, Los Angeles, Dr. Lee began to focus his research on head, neck and thoracic cancers.
Today, Dr. Lee is a professor of biostatistics and a Kennedy Foundation Chair in Cancer Research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center as well as a statistical editor for Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Clinical Cancer Research, and Cancer Prevention Research. He is also an elected fellow of the American Statistical Association. Dr. Lee routinely helps to guide translational cancer research that is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense by applying his statistical knowledge to improve the design and data analyses of clinical trials and other research studies. Dr. Lee works with researchers to ensure that the clinical trials are providing valuable and reliable information.
“Every patient is different and the outcomes are influenced by many factors,” explains Dr. Lee. “The real world is noisy. So statisticians help pick out that noise and accurately assess the outcomes.”
With his particular interest in head, neck and thoracic diseases, Dr. Lee was asked to serve as the primary biostatistician leading the groundbreaking BATTLE-1 clinical trial at MD Anderson that successfully used the molecular profiles of individual lung cancer patients to guide their therapy. This trial highlighted the power of utilizing lung cancer biopsies and biomarkers to personalize treatment and has since spurred several major clinical trials to continue this line of research.
Though we are making great strides in personalized medicine, Dr. Lee cautions that we must continue funding well-planned research and clinical trials. “Drug resistance is still a big problem. Many patients respond to therapy initially, but those effects are rarely lasting. Finding effective treatments to avoid drug resistance and provide a permanent cure for cancer patients continues to be a challenge.”
Dr. Lee’s drive to conduct lung cancer research efficiently and effectively also fuels his efforts as a member of LUNGevity’s Scientific Advisory Board, where he can help guide the foundation’s strategic approach to research funding. “With the many innovative research projects that LUNGevity funds, I am hopeful that we will soon dramatically change what we know about lung cancer and apply the knowledge to provide effective treatments to patients,” he says.
“The past century was of physical sciences. The 21st century is the century of biological science,” Dr. Lee predicts. “I am very hopeful and very excited too. We are at the right time to make progress in fighting against lung cancer.”