Dr. Amy Lee is Freeman Chair of Basic Science and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, California. Dr. Lee obtained her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. Dr. Lee is currently holder of the Judy and Larry Freeman Cosmetics Chair in Basic Science in Cancer Research at USC. Dr. Lee’s research focuses on the mammalian stress response and molecular chaperones. Her laboratory is the first to clone the genes coding for a set of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-inducible glucose regulated proteins (GRPs) and has made numerous discoveries in understanding how these genes are regulated and their role in development and human diseases. Dr. Lee’s laboratory established that GRP78 is a major contributor for tumorigenesis, metastatic growth and drug resistance. Through creation of conditional mouse models of GRP78, her laboratory provides direct proof that partial reduction of GRP78, while having no effect on normal organ function, is sufficient to halt cancer progression in vivo. GRP78 is now recognized as a novel cancer therapeutic target with dual function in tumor progression as well as tumor angiogenesis and a novel prognostic marker for tumor virulence and disease recurrence. With the recent discovery that GRP78 is preferentially expressed on the cell surface of tumor cells controlling signaling and proliferation, her laboratory is investigating the basic mechanisms for GRP translocation to the cell surface and developing therapeutics targeting the GRPs for clinical applications.
For her research achievements, Dr. Lee received the MERIT Award from the National Cancer Institute. In recognition of her pioneering work on ER stress and its impact on cell and cancer biology, she was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS).