Candace Wai Sze Lei 李惠斯

  • Scholarship in 2023 at University of Virginia

About Candace Wai Sze Lei’s work

Candace Wai Sze Lei’s field is biomedical engineering where she focuses on cancer, phosphoproteomics, and computational systems biology. Her current research is on understanding the activation and inhibition of signaling heterogeneity in cancer.

Tyrosine phosphorylation is specifically important in early stages of receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) cascades, which dictate cellular processes including cell growth, differentiation, and homeostasis. More than 50 tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) were approved to treat tumors by preventing the aberrant action caused by dysfunctional tyrosine kinases in certain signal transduction pathways. However, it is not uncommon for patients to develop resistance to such kinds of treatment.

Lei hypothesized that in the complex tumor microenvironment, cancer cells may receive molecular signals from other cell types and undergo certain adaptive and compensatory mechanisms in response to treatment. Her research will use a phosphoproteomic-driven approach to explore the mechanism of TKI resistance and understand how kinase activities changes in specific experimental conditions and clinical phenotypes. Ultimately, the discovery could lead to better understanding of cancers on a systematic level.


Candace Wai Sze Lei obtained her BBA in Integrated Business Administration from the Business School of the Chinese University of Hong Kong before taking an MSc in Bioinformatics at Northeastern University. She then went into the pharmaceutical industry and worked as a scientist, specializing in bioinformatics and cancer immunology. She is currently conducting her research as a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia, where in 2022 she was granted a Graduate Research Assistantship Award. Outside of research, she hopes to create a culture of collegiality by serving in the Graduate Biomedical Engineering Society.