Dr. Lee has an active research program that focuses on developing new therapies to treat retinopathy of prematurity and retinoblastoma. He has identified a novel class of drugs to accelerate cell death of both retinoblastoma cells and vascular endothelial cells. He also studies the role that retinal stem cells play both in the formation of retinoblastoma tumors as well as replacement of damaged neurons resulting from degenerative retinal diseases.
As director of the Retina Institute in The Vision Center at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Dr. Thomas C. Lee is overseeing the growth of this highly respected program. He came to Children's Hospital in 2006 from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital / Cornell University, where he was director of the pediatric retina service, and associate director of the Robert M. Ellsworth Ocular Oncology Center. Dr. Lee earned his bachelor's at Johns Hopkins University and received his MD from Cornell University where he graduated with Honors in Research as a Howard Hughes Scholar. He completed his ophthalmology residency at Cornell and then went to Harvard Medical School as a Heed Fellow where he studied retinal stem cells and the role they play in cancer. He completed his retina fellowship at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School before returning to Cornell where he was a Fred Gluck Scholar. He held the position of Associate Director of the Robert M. Ellsworth Ocular Oncology Center at Cornell until being recruited to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Lee has made significant advances in our understanding of pediatric retinal disorders. He has pioneered the use of cutting edge imaging techniques such as Spectral Domain Optical Coherence Tomography (SD-OCT) to identify retinal detachments at the earliest possible stage. He is also the first to use an intraocular endoscope to perform complex surgery in pediatric retinal detachments resulting from retinopathy of prematurity, familial exudative vitreo-retinopathy, x-linked retinoschisis, and trauma. He has identified novel drugs that can induce blood vessel and tumor regression and is currently designing new ways to enhance delivery into the eye. His work has been supported by a number of grants from research foundations and has numerous peer-reviewed publications in recognition of these accomplishments. While at Cornell he has been awarded the Distinguished House Staff Award, and the Resident Teaching, Franklyn Ellenbogen Prize, and Dean William Mecklenburg Polk Memorial Prize, and has recently been recognized with the Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology for his contributions both in advancing the field as well as teaching courses to enhance the skills of other ophthalmologists. He holds membership in the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Association of Pediatric Retina Surgeons, and the Ocular Oncology Research Society, and the New York Ophthalmological Society.