What happens before and after a transplant is of particular interest to Dr. Stephanie Lee, who joined Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center last January.
Those interests include survivorship issues, quality-of-life issues and the impact of graft vs. host disease — all of the issues related to getting people through the transplant procedure.
"My work in hematological malignancies is done with both the front and back end in mind," Lee said. "When people come in for very subspecialized consultations, my goal is to look at doctor–patient communication and make sure patients get everything they want out of it. And then when they do have treatment, I want to know the current results of that treatment and how can we improve them."
Another area of interest is health–services research, which includes analysis of physician practices, cost–effectiveness analysis and similar policy issues. For example, these types of studies evaluate whether people who should be getting transplants are actually getting them, how much they cost, and how physicians practice differently around the country. Lee also enjoys examining the psychosocial predictors of outcomes: Does depression change how people do in transplants? Does optimism improve someone's chances of getting through a transplant?
"It's difficult for me to characterize exactly the type of research I do because I'm interested in a lot of areas."
Lee was recruited from Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, where she worked on the same issues. She recently received some national media attention when she was co–chair of an American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) panel that produced clinical guidelines for fertility preservation in cancer patients. Lee is a member of ASCO's health–services committee.
"You need to think about this issue early in the treatment decision process," she said. "There are going to be many people who get through a transplant and go on with their lives and, unfortunately, because they didn't think about it early enough, having their own biological children may not be a part of that."
"We pointed out that infertility is a potential long–term complication of treatment and you can often do something about it. Unfortunately if you don't talk about the risk of infertility early enough, you don't have any options. Many other complications of therapy such as heart disease, lung disease, and secondary malignancies often aren't preventable. Planning for children is something you can actually do something about when the topic is brought up early."
Lee's recent arrival at the Hutchinson Center is a homecoming; she grew up in Seattle and attended the University of Washington as an undergrad before getting her medical degree at Stanford University. As an associate member of the Clinical Research Division Lee is an attending physician for outpatients in the Long–Term Follow–Up Program.