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Oral Pathology, Medicine, Radiology

Yu L. Lei, DDS, PhD

Yu Leo Lei

Assistant Professor

Division of Oral Pathology/Medicine/Radiology
Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine
University of Michigan School of Dentistry
1011 N. University Ave Rm 2029E
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1078

Lei Lab


Dr. Lei is an immunologist-oral pathologist. He is an Assistant Professor of Dentistry and Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Michigan. He is a member of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Graduate Program in Immunology. After his Ph.D. training at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, UNC-Chapel Hill, and residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, he completed a Head and Neck Oncology research fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. He served as a research track faculty member at the Department of Otolaryngology University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine before he was recruited to U-M.

Dr. Lei is certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (ABOMP); and participates in the University of Michigan Oral Pathology Biopsy Service. He serves on the editorial board of the official journal of ABOMP, Oral Surgery Oral Medicine Oral Pathology Oral Radiology. He has received numerous awards, including the Joseph Lister Award First Place from the International Association for Dental Research; the Leon Barnes award from the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology and the NIH/NIDCR Dentist-Scientist Pathway to Independence Award. He is enthusiastically committed to teaching, cancer immunology research and clinical service to the community.

Research Interests

The Lei laboratory is interested in the identification of central pathways driving cancer immune escape. Head and Neck Cancers employ a complex set of mechanisms to dampen their immunogenicity, and their response rates to neoadjuvant immune checkpoint blockade are less than 20%. We have developed fully integrated biochemical, pre-clinical, clinical, and bioengineering approaches to understand the mechanisms driving cancer resistance to immunotherapy and develop innovative therapeutic nano-vaccines that reinvigorate immune detection of cold tumors. We have three major research directions.

  1. Mechanisms Regulating Cancer Immune Escape: Pattern Recognition Receptors (PRRs) are central for the immune system to detect "non-self" such as cancer. We are interested in characterizing the role of novel PRR regulators in cancer immunogenicity, using both high throughput and gene-targeted approaches.
  2. Nano-vaccines to Sensitize Cold Cancer to Immune Checkpoint Receptor Blockade: In order to expand the tumor-specific CD8+ T-cell repertoire, our group utilizes advanced nanotechnologies to deliver and optimize different anti-tumor vaccine formulations. We are interested in vaccine design, manufacture, pre-clinical validation, mechanistic analysis, and clinical translation.
  3. Clinical Research: We are interested in the identification of novel biomarkers for tissue immune infiltrate and patient prognosis.

Core techniques: Head and Neck Cancer in vivo modeling, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes profiling, effector T-cell function assays, clinical research, immunohistochemistry, protein biochemistry, molecular cloning, flow cytometry, lentiviral shRNA delivery, CRISPR-Cas9 genomic editing, retroviral gene expression, confocal imaging, transcriptome profiling (RNA-Seq), machine learning, quantitative mass spectrometry, mass cytometry (CyTOF) and nanotechnology.

Recent Publications