New Chair for Tumor Biology at the JKU Faculty of Medicine

Renowned researcher Soyoung Lee will take over the distinguished chair in October.

Soyoung Lee
Soyoung Lee

Research in tumor biology aims to decipher the molecular mechanisms found in carcinogenesis. When developing new treatments against cancer, this information is indispensable. The Johannes Kepler University Linz is pleased to announce that distinguished researcher Soyoung Lee will head this important new chair in October. Soyoung Lee previously worked at the Charité in Berlin and is committed to personalized, high-precision medicine and conducting interdisciplinary research.      

Cancer remains one of the most common causes of death. For a long period. potential treatment created to fight cancer remained largely unchanged. While surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy (meaning the use of cytotoxins to kill cancer cells) cannot remove these cells entirely, they can, in some cases, treat patients a little more effectively and result in fewer side effects.The new JKU chair Soyoung Lee remarked: "We can only develop new, targeted cancer treatments once we better - and more fully understand - the molecular, cellular and immunological basis for malignant growth, particularly targeted areas of vulnerability."

Here at the JKU, the tumor biologist aims to tackle these big, complex questions and more: How and why do tumor cells differ from normal cells? Where do cancer-driving mutations simultaneously generate dependencies and how can we use this to treat cancer? These are complex questions that involve various aspects of basic biology and require the expertise from researchers in other areas.

These kinds of widespread changes in tumor samples are fairly rare. Instead, individual tumor diseases mutate and come together to form very distinct, almost unique, patterns which in turn constitute the basis for precision or personalized medicine. Lee explained: "This is both a challenge and an opportunity. We here in the area of tumor biology work hand-in-hand with clinical oncology to identify high-quality biomarkers; these are clear 'signposts' in support of the right treatment that is tailored to the individual patient." 

Joint Effort in Cancer ResearchIndividual researchers and individual research labs can no longer make important discoveries in regard to cancer research on their own; many projects increasingly call for collaboration between experts in biochemistry, biophysics and genetics, ranging from clinicians to computational biologists and medical engineers.

Soyoung Lee added: "When it comes to interdisciplinary cancer research, we need a new perspective and I am delighted to be part of a community of leading experts from different disciplines at the JKU. Together in the area of cancer research, we will pursue intelligent solutions and approaches to develop faster and more accurate - but above all individual - diagnosis or prognosis as well as more efficient, less harmful treatments."

At the Charité in Berlin, the tumor biologist specialized in signaling network mechanism screening and biological changes in cancer cells, an important foundation to develop new treatments.

Hands-On Interaction Together with Students
In the area of medical education, Univ. Prof. Lee believes in open exchange with students and aims to create bi-directional lectures and seminars.
Lee remarked: "As educators, we bring our expertise and experience to the table, but we also learn from our students as they not only have a new, different perspective, they also raise questions I may not have thought about before. I look forward to lively and engaging discussions with students." She also aims to support medical research at the university to get the next generation of scientists excited about medical research as early as possible.

JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas added: "Cancer affects us all. There is hardly any other area of medical research in which we hope to create more effective treatments. In this regard, I am particularly pleased that we have been able to recruit Prof. Lee for the new chair as she is a recognized expert in personalized and innovative tumor medicine on a molecular level. Her focus on interdisciplinary research makes her a perfect fit here at the JKU and here, I believe she will not only find an encouraging and inspiring environment, but open doors to drive her research for better cancer treatment farther."   

Elgin Drda, JKU Vice-Rector for Medicine and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine is delighted about Prof. Lee’s appointment. "This is the 17th professorship at Jthe KU's Faculty of Medicine and I am particularly pleased to add another highly skilled woman to our team of professors. I would like to welcome Prof. Soyoung Lee warmly to the JKU MED Campus!"  

About Univ. Prof. Soyoung Lee

Born on July 27, 1973, in Seoul, South Korea, Univ. Prof. Dr. Soyoung Lee grew up Daejeon, South Korea’s scientific center. Soyoung Lee discovered her interest in science at an early age and after receiving her undergraduate degree and graduate degree from the Korea Institute of Advanced Sciences and Technology (KAIST), she completed her doctoral studies in the US at the State University of New York and at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. After graduating, she accepted a post-doctoral position at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and became a faculty member at the Berlin School of Integrated Oncology (BSIO). In addition, Prof. Lee works closely with the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC).

Soyoung Lee enjoys reading, watching Korean movies, arts & culture, cooking, and spending time with her children. The new Linz resident is looking forward to exploring her new city: "Compared to some of the places I've lived in so far, at first glance, Linz seems small. However, I have found that this city is full of interesting places and cultural events. The green areas surrounding the city contribute to the high quality of life here as well."