Tumor Immunology Program

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Dr. Antoni Ribas

Director

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

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Co-Director

Yvonne Chen, Ph.D.

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Overview

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.

Goals

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

Leadership

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.