The new director of the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center in Indianapolis has set some ambitious goals.
Dr. Kelvin Lee was named director last October, but joined the center in February.
The center has publicly announced its goal to find cures for multiple myeloma, triple-negative breast cancer and childhood sarcomas.
In an interview with Business of Health Reporter Kylie Veleta, Dr. Lee said the “boldness and audacity” of IU to eliminate those cancers attracted him to the job.
“Three cancers that IU has said we want to cure. You don’t hear that in the cancer world. You don’t hear people say we want to cure these cancers. And these are hard cancers to cure,” said Lee. “And the fabulous people that are here really was a primary enticement to come here, along with a commitment from senior leadership to make this happen.”
Lee previously served as the Jacobs Family Chair of Immunology at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, which was started in 1985. His work has focused on multiple myeloma.
As cancer center director, Lee plays a key role in setting the future course for cancer research in Indiana.
“The Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center…has been known for decades for really cutting edge and cancer treatment changing research and other work,” said Lee. “So, a fabulous history already in the cancer center. And we are only looking to move further and further upward.”
The center achieved “comprehensive” recognition from the National Cancer Institute in 2019. Only 51 cancer-focused research centers have received the federal designation, which Lee says signifies research excellence.
But that is not enough for Lee. He wants the center to receive a prestigious, top ten designation of all comprehensive cancer research centers in the country from U.S. News & World Report.
“Currently, IU is high performing, but not really in the top 50. But the people here are fantastic. The patient care here is fantastic. The researchers fantastic the education here is fantastic,” said Lee. “I think it is going to be something that is very much doable for us to be in the top 10 within 10 years.”
In addition to the center director, Lee is also the senior associate dean of cancer research at IU School of Medicine and the H.H. Gregg Professor of Oncology.
Lee says he wants to build the center’s reputation globally.
“So people around the world will say, ‘I want to go to Indianapolis. I want to go to IU because they’re doing the best care and they’re doing the best research in the cancer that I am struggling with,’” said Lee. “That is a very exciting possibility and I think that we can do it.”