Assistant Professor of Medicine
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medicine

Research Projects

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the most lethal form of kidney cancer, afflicts >70,000
patients each year in the United States with a rising disease incidence. For patients with kidney cancer, molecular biomarkers which can help clinicians with treatment decision-making have been elusive, and currently no tissue-based testing is utilized for this disease. This represents a large unmet need for both patients with common kidney cancers or rare kidney cancers and motivates Dr. Chung-Han Lee to target the circulating tumor cell detection technology for clinical utility.

His team is correlating the circulating tumor cell platform data with a patient’s original tumor and tumor burden from imaging data, and will study how treatment affects the yield and profiles of the circulating tumor cells. In addition, the scientists will conduct genomic profiling on the circulating tumor cells and on patients’ tumor tissues and compare known gene expression signatures that are in development.

Completing this project’s goals will provide the essential foundation for integrating these innovative and advanced circulating cell detection technology tools into the clinic to improve the care of kidney cancer patients.


Chung-Han Lee, M.D., Ph.D. is a physician-scientist focused on the development of novel biomarkers to better understand the pathogenesis of renal cell carcinoma (RCC). He also studies the mechanisms of response and resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors.

As a medical oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), Dr. Lee worked to integrate genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics to understand RCC pathogenesis.

As a faculty member at MSK, Dr. Lee leads the Translational Kidney Cancer Program. His research interest is focused on identification of novel targets and biomarker development for RCC. He has also led clinical trials that have resulted in the regulatory approval of novel regimens for kidney cancer and changes to national cancer treatment guidelines.

Dr. Lee has conducted extensive work on biomarker development in RCC and currently leads efforts to adapt and translate biomarkers for clinical application. In collaboration with Ritesh Kotecha, MD, and Samir Zaidi, MD, PhD, he launched the xenografting and organoid program at MSK, which provides ex vivo characterization of patient derived samples to predict for responses to systemic therapy. Together, they have also developed a novel platform to better understand and implement gene expression signatures for clinical decision making.

This study will transform our ability to match patients to treatment options that result in improved patient outcomes.

The National Foundation for Cancer Research wishes to thank the Sorenson Legacy Foundation for its generous support to expand on this critical research initiative.

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Research Focus

Cancer Type Areas