Tumor Immunology Program


Dr. Antoni Ribas


Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D.

Contact via email


Yvonne Chen, Ph.D.

Contact via email


The UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Tumor Immunology (TI) research program provides a research environment focused on enhancing the understanding of tumor immunology and developing   new immunotherapies for cancer. This is based on understanding fundamental biological processes and applying these insights to the development of new immune-modulating agents and genetically engineered adoptive cell transfer therapies, and then clinically translating novel treatment strategies and analyzing patient-derived samples to further understand the mechanistic basis of responses and resistance to therapies. This comprehensive process facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations and supports a systematic approach to the development of next-generation cancer immunotherapies.

The TI research program brings together basic and translational scientists into an environment that has spawned novel investigator-initiated immunotherapy clinical trials and the approval of immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies for a broad range of tumor types. The research program’s basic science has a strong focus on genetic engineering of T-cell responses to cancer and understanding how the immune system and cancer interplay, in terms of both the biology of immune responses to cancer and the relationship between inflammation and cancer. The research program further focuses on several research areas including the relationship between inflammation and cancer, the use of antibody fusion proteins for cancer therapy and their combination with targeted therapies to sensitize cancer cells to immunotherapy, and improving the lives of patients with AIDS-related cancers.


The specific aims of the TI research program are to:

  1. Provide an optimal interactive environment between basic scientists, translational investigators and clinicians to enhance the understanding of tumor immunology
  2. Develop novel immune-based clinical therapies for patients with cancer


Director Dr. Antoni Ribas is a professor of medicine, professor of surgery, and professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at UCLA. Ribas is a physician-scientist who conducts laboratory and clinical research in malignant melanoma, focusing on gene-engineered T cells, PD-1 blockade and BRAF targeted therapies. His National Cancer Institute, State of California and foundation-supported research laboratory develops models of disease to test new therapeutic options, studies mechanism of action of treatments in patients and the molecular mechanisms of therapy resistance. He is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, has a Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Buenos Aires, is the recipient of the 2014 AACR Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award, the 2018 AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology and an NCI Outstanding Investigator Award. As director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Center at UCLA, he coordinates the research of five funded laboratories aimed at advancing new immunotherapies for cancer and conducting PICI multicenter clinical trials. And, as Chair of the Melanoma Committee at SWOG he aims at bringing to clinical trials in the cooperative groups original research arising from the TI research program and other cancer centers with the goal of improving treatments for patients with cancer.

Co-director Yvonne Chen is an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Her laboratory focuses on applying synthetic biology and biomolecular engineering techniques to the development of novel mammalian cell systems, particularly T-cell therapy for cancer. Chen was a junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows prior to joining UCLA in 2013, and has been a recipient of the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, the Hellman Fellowship, the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy Young Investigator Award in Cell and Gene Therapy for Cancer, the NSF CAREER Award, and the Mark Foundation Emerging Leader Award. Chen is a member of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Center at UCLA and collaborates with cancer center members both within and outside the TI research program on clinical translation of CAR-T cell therapy as well as basic research aimed at engineering more robust cell-based immunotherapies.

Upcoming events

The following list is for upcoming events and seminars of notable interest to the Tumor Immunology Program and its members. This calendar is updated automatically.

For a list of all upcoming JCCC events (including other research programs, patients and survivors, and the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation), please visit the Events Calendar.

UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center 2021 Retreat

 Image promoting the 2021 UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Inaugural Retreat

We are excited to announce the rescheduling of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Inaugural Retreat, which will now take place virtually on May 13, 2021!

Registration is now open! Please visit our online registration site and register now!

About the Retreat

Image of cancer researcher Victor Velculescu
Keynote speaker Dr. Victor E. Velculescu

The keynote speaker for the event is Dr. Victor E. Velculescu, Professor of Oncology, Pathology and Medicine and Co-Director of Cancer Genetics and Epigenetics at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The all-day event will bring together the broader cancer research community from across UCLA, including faculty researchers, physicians, physician-scientists, students, post-docs and allied health professionals.

This virtual retreat is an opportunity for a wide array of individuals working to accelerate discoveries that prevent and cure cancer to share progress and accomplishments, discuss challenges and future directions, learn about resources available at the Cancer Center, and develop and strengthen collaborations.

Planned activities include sessions comprised of talks on a variety of topics and an exhibitor’s room with virtual booths on UCLA cancer research-related services available to you.

How to register

Registration is required and is now open. Please visit our online registration site to reserve your spot.

We look forward to seeing you at the retreat!


7:30 a.m.

Lobby & Exhibit Hall open

8:00 a.m.

Welcome & Opening Remarks
Michael Teitell, MD, PhD
Kelsey Martin, MD, PhD


8:15 a.m.

Development of Imatinib and Ibrutinib: Historical Perspective on Targeted Therapy and the JCCC
Owen Witte, MD

8:45 a.m.

Variability in Cancer Diagnosis: Implications, Challenges, and the Promise of AI
Joann Elmore, MD, MPH

9:05 a.m.

The Simms/Mann Center for Integrative Oncology: A community based approach to whole person care
Kauser Ahmed, PhD

9:25 a.m.

SPOREs: Progress and Opportunities

  • UCLA SPORE in Prostate Cancer
  • UCLA SPORE in Brain Cancer

Rob Reiter, MD
Linda Liau, MD, PhD, MBA

9:55 a.m.

Coffee break


10:10 a.m.

What Can The Cancer Center Do For “U”?

  • JCCC Funding Mechanisms: Seed Grants and More
  • JCCC Shared Resources Overview
  • JCCC Activities and Support Services
  • UC-Cancer Consortium

Heather Christofk, PhD
Melissa Fitzmaurice Neligan, MPH, CRA
Zoran Galic, PhD
Michael Teitell MD, PhD

10:30 a.m.

Advancing Science to Address Pressing Cancer Needs in our Communities
Roshan Bastani, PhD
Beth Glenn, PhD
Alison Herrmann, PhD

10:55 a.m.

Early Detection of Cancer Using Noninvasive Liquid Biopsies
Victor E. Velculescu, MD, PhD

12:00 p.m.

Lunch Break and Networking
Informational Booths open for viewing in Exhibit Hall


12:30 p.m.

Engineering Next‐Generational CAR‐T Cells for Cancer Immunotherapy
Yvonne Chen, PhD

1:00 p.m.

The Evolutionary Origins of Cancer Lethality
Paul Boutros, PhD, MBA

1:30 p.m.

Coffee break


1:40 p.m.

Development of Breast Cancer Therapies: Herceptin, palbociclib
Dennis Slamon, MD, PhD

2:10 p.m.

Fighting Melanoma with the Immune System Melanoma
Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD

2:40 p.m.

Entrepreneurship and the Business of Science
Arie Belldegrun, MD
Christi Shaw, MBA, CEO of Kite Pharma
Craig Gordon, MD, Partner, Capital Research Global Investors
David Chang MD, PhD, CEO of Allogene Pharma in SF
Helen Kim, MBA, SMD of Vida Ventures in SM

3:25 p.m.

Closing Remarks
Michael Teitell, MD, PhD

3:30 p.m.

Retreat ends

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