José R. Conejo-Garcia, MD, PhD, has joined Moffitt Cancer Center as Coleader of the Immunology Program and Chair of the Department of Immunology. The Immunology Program is focused on defining the regulation role of immune checkpoint molecules in tumor immune surveillance and in identifying new targets and developing new strategies and agents to enhance immune response to cancer cells. Moffitt’s Immunology Program is made up of more than two dozen basic, translational, and clinical researchers who are studying the mechanisms by which tumors escape the immune response and in devising new strategies to disable these pathways. Dr. Conejo-Garcia will co-lead the program with Claudio Anasetti, MD.
Dr. Conejo-Garcia’s research aims to understand and target mechanisms of immunosuppression in gynecologic malignancies. His recent work focuses on the biology of dendritic cells and how these cells are altered by tumors so they can evade the immune system by impairing antigen presentation. His recent research in ovarian cancer has also found that T cells redirected to molecules selectively expressed in ovarian cells can lead to tumor cell death and block disease progression without significant toxicity. Dr. Conejo-Garcia is also studying the role of commensal microorganisms in the orchestration of antitumor immune responses as well as novel checkpoint inhibitory receptor–ligand pairs that blunt protective immunity.
“Moffitt is a leader in the field of tumor immunology. Dr. Conejo-Garcia’s extensive and highly innovative work on identifying the mechanisms by which the tumor microenvironment disables the antitumor immune response will add to our already strong translational research in this area, and it will have a lasting impact on patient care”, said John L. Cleveland, PhD, Associate Center Director of Basic Science Research at Moffitt.
Prior to joining Moffitt, Dr. Conejo-Garcia was leader of the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program and Director of Graduate Studies at The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. He is also a Mentor for the Department of Defensive’s Ovarian Academy and serves as Program Committee for the American Association of Immunologists. ■