Skip Navigation

Lee M. Ellis, MD

Lee M. Ellis, MD ‘83, with his dog, Jaxon

September 20, 2021  — The UVA Medical Alumni Association is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2021 Walter Reed Distinguished Achievement Award: Lee M. Ellis, MD ‘83, FACS, FASCO.

Ellis is the Ruben Distinguished Chair in Gastroenterology Cancer Research and a professor in the Departments of Surgical Oncology, and Molecular and Cellular Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC). He previously served as interim chair, Department of Cancer Biology (2008-2012), Director of the Metastasis Research Center (2010-2012), and Director of the Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Translational Research Program (2007-2013) at MDACC. He is currently executive director for translational medicine for MDACC’s Global Academic Program.

Ellis’ laboratory has made several fundamental contributions to the field of cancer research. His group was the first to identify VEGF as an important mediator of colorectal cancer angiogenesis, growth, and tumor cell survival. He further established that VEGF was the driving force behind malignant effusions and ascites in cancer patients. Since these discoveries, VEGF-targeted therapies have been approved for the treatment of patients with a variety of malignancies, including metastatic colorectal cancer. Additionally, Ellis’ laboratory was the first to hypothesize that mutated Ras could potentially be a resistance marker for EGFR-targeted therapies. Following his review on this topic in Clinical Cancer Research, clinical studies demonstrated that mutated Ras was indeed a resistance marker for EGFR antibody therapy in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, and the FDA subsequently mandated wild-type Ras status for patients being considered for EGFR antibody therapy.

Ellis is active at the national level with leadership roles in ASCO and AACR, including chair of ASCO’s Cancer Research Committee, and was named a Fellow of ASCO in 2014. He is currently a member of the ASCO Board of Directors and co-chair of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) National Clinical Trials Network Core Correlative Sciences Committee. He serves in the ECOG Data Monitoring Committee, a position he has held since 2005. In 2015, Ellis was named the Society of Surgical Oncology John Wayne Clinical Cancer Research Lecturer, and he received the Flance-Karl Award from the American Surgical Association for his “seminal contributions in understanding colorectal cancer biology.” He currently serves on several data safety monitoring committees and is a deputy editor for JAMA Oncology.

Congratulations to Dr. Ellis on this well-deserved recognition.