NIH Patient Lee’s Legacy Lives On

Head and shoulders of Lee, in Driven to Cure logo shirt, smiling at podium

Driven to Cure founder Andrew Lee raised more than $400,000 for cancer research.

Photo: Bill Branson

NIH mourns the passing of Andrew Lee, 23, who died on Apr. 21 following a hard-fought battle with cancer.

In 2015, after finishing his freshman year of college, Lee was diagnosed with stage 4 HLRCC (hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell cancer), a rare form of kidney cancer with no known cure. Determined to fight the terminal disease and contribute to research, Lee would participate in seven NIH-led clinical trials, including collaborations with Yale and Georgetown cancer centers. 

Family and friends described Lee, of Kensington, Md., as a caring, positive person with a quiet resilience. He remained optimistic during his treatments and rarely complained, despite unrelenting pain and other serious symptoms and side effects.

“Andrew was a wonderful young man and an inspiration to our entire clinical team,” said Dr. W. Marston Linehan, chief, Urologic Oncology Branch, NCI. “From the moment he was diagnosed, his thoughts turned to doing everything he could to help other patients with this disorder.”  

Soon after his diagnosis, Lee’s father bought him his dream car, a Nissan GT-R, which he turned into a fundraising vehicle. In 2016, Lee founded the nonprofit Driven to Cure to raise awareness and research dollars for rare kidney cancer. He took his customized GT-R to auto shows in between cancer treatments, raising more than $400,000 for the Foundation for the NIH to fund kidney cancer studies at the Clinical Center.

Lee leans back against his car

Lee with his customized GT-R

Photo: Bill Branson

Lee received multiple awards from FNIH for his unwavering commitment to biomedical research. In addition to his fundraising efforts, Lee also donated his kidney and tissues to NIH to further research efforts.

Lee’s story inspired people far and wide, even many who never had the chance to meet him. Driven to Cure has received donations from 160 countries and plans to continue its charitable work in Lee’s memory. 

“It has been an honor to have had the opportunity to care for such a brave and selfless individual and to get to know his equally remarkable family,” said Linehan. “Andrew’s efforts to raise awareness for this disorder give hope to all patients affected with this rare form of kidney cancer.”  

Lee is survived by his parents, Bruce and Sarah, brother Tommy and girlfriend Hailey.—Dana Talesnik