Nancy Y. Lee, MD, FASTRO

Radiation Oncologist

Vice Chair, Department of Radiation Oncology; Service Chief, Head & Neck Radiation Oncology; Director, Proton Therapy

Conditions Treated

Nancy Y. Lee, MD

John's Story

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About Me

I am a radiation oncologist with more than 17 years of experience. I specialize in using advanced forms of radiation to treat head and neck cancer, including thyroid cancer. These include proton therapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy, image-guided radiation therapy, and stereotactic body radiation therapy. My goal in using these technologies is to improve my patients’ outcomes while decreasing potential treatment side effects and preserving their quality of life. No matter which treatment option we use, I care for all of my patients as if they were part of my family. This means creating a plan tailored to their unique disease, and doing everything I can to help them get well.

There are many effective treatment options for people diagnosed with tumors in the head and neck. We can get rid of many of these tumors without the need for an invasive surgery. Instead, we can use radiation therapy alone or in combination with immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or chemotherapy. This is especially true for tumors in the tonsils, base of the tongue, and soft palate.

People who come to me for their care never see only me. I believe it’s important to consult with my colleagues in medical oncology and surgery. All of my patients benefit from the combined expertise of several doctors who are committed to curing their cancer and helping them get back to their lives.

My research is focused on ways to make radiation therapy for head and neck cancers safer and more effective. I am the principal investigator for many national and international clinical trials. For example, for people with very advanced head and neck cancer, I am researching the effectiveness of immunotherapy combined with chemoradiation. I am also studying the use of plasma Epstein-Barr virus DNA to individualize treatment for people with nasopharyngeal cancer.

In recent years, we have seen a rise in cases of head and neck cancer caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). Though these cancers may respond to conventional therapies, we need to find innovative new ways to treat them. I am one of the leading experts in this area. I am currently leading a trial to evaluate the use of smaller radiation doses for select people with HPV-related head and neck cancers. These smaller doses mean we can help people avoid possible side effects from extensive radiation.

I am also very active in many cooperative groups such as NRG Oncology and National Cancer Institute committees. I have authored numerous articles focusing on head and neck cancers with the goal of defining appropriate treatment for people with these diseases. I am one of the major thought leaders in the world for the treatment of head and neck cancer. 

People who are diagnosed with cancer may feel hopeless. When I meet with patients, I always try to restore their hope by clearly explaining treatment options, answering questions, and discussing any concerns. I also remind them that even though we will work to make their tumor go away, I won’t be going anywhere; I will be with them every step of the way and will continue to see them for the rest of their lives. 

  • Clinical Expertise: Head and Neck Cancers; Skin Cancers; Thyroid Cancer
  • Awards and Honors: Castle Connolly: New York Magazine Top Doctors (2013-2018)
  • Languages Spoken: English; Mandarin
  • Education: MD, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
  • Residencies: Radiation Oncology - Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center
  • Board Certifications: Radiation Oncology


Visit PubMed for a full listing of Nancy Y. Lee’s journal articles

Pubmed is an online index of biomedical articles maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.


Most major health insurers offer plans that include MSK as one of their in-network providers. If MSK is in-network, it means all our doctors are too. Medicare and New York State Medicaid also provide benefits for care at MSK.

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