Stephanie J. Lee, MD, MPH
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Bone marrow transplantation, long-term follow-up
What’s most important in life is often what you can do for other people.”
Why do you conduct research?
When I was a volunteer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center — before I went to medical school — I met a pair of siblings who helped me decide to go into stem cell transplantation. A girl had donated her bone marrow to her older brother. And while the transplant had cured his leukemia, it was now attacking his body, the result of a condition called graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). At the time, there was little that could be done to stop it, and it was just so horribly sad. I kept thinking that this shouldn’t happen; a cure shouldn’t make people so sick. That boy’s experience has never been far from my mind. Today, I lead a national research network that seeks to better understand GVHD and create more effective therapies for it.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
I specialize in providing blood and bone marrow transplants for patients with leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes and other diseases of the blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes. At the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, I serve as the research director of the Long-Term Follow-Up Program, which provides monitoring and care for patients who have had stem cell transplants.
Through research, I focus on improving transplant outcomes, supporting survivorship and mitigating the impact of chronic GVHD, a life-threatening condition that affects approximately four in 10 transplant recipients. My research has been instrumental in identifying genetic criteria that can better match donors with patients who need transplants, lowering their risk of developing complications like GVHD. In 2018, I was honored to receive the David and Patricia Giuliani/Oliver Press Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. In addition to patient care and research, I am also active in leadership, serving as president-elect of the American Society of Hematology.
What do you enjoy about working at SCCA and its partner organizations?
One of the best parts of my job is participating in team science, working with colleagues here and from all over the world, to improve the lives of stem cell transplant recipients. This is not a competitive atmosphere; rather, we support and push each other to do better. I’m really fortunate to be part of such a collaborative environment. I’m also thankful that I can divide my time between doing research and seeing patients. The relationships I’ve forged with patients and their family members over the years have been a very meaningful part of my life.