Moffitt Cancer Center Hires World-Renowned Researcher as Co-Leader of the Immunology Program

October 24, 2016

Conejo-GarciaTAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 24, 2016) – José R. Conejo-Garcia, M.D., Ph.D. has joined Moffitt Cancer Center as co-leader of the Immunology Program and chair of the Department of Immunology. The Immunology Program is focused on defining the regulation an 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. The Immunology Program has been highly impactful, as is evident by the number of new therapies it has driven into the oncology clinic. Indeed, five new immunotherapy drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 2011, and Moffitt’s Immunology Program has played a key role in each of them. Our researchers have also been integral in bringing new immunotherapies to market for the treatment of lung cancer. Conejo-Garcia will co-lead the program with Claudio Anasetti, M.D.

“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 anti-tumor 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, Ph.D., associate center director of Basic Science Research at Moffitt.

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, a subset of immune cells that normally boost the immune response, 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 re-directed 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 anti-tumor immune responses as well as novel checkpoint inhibitory receptor; ligand pairs that blunt protective immunity. 

Prior to joining Moffitt, 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.

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Moffitt is dedicated to one lifesaving mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. The Tampa-based facility is one of only 47 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the No. 6 cancer hospital in the nation and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Hospitals” for cancer care since 1999. Moffitt devotes more than 2.5 million square feet to research and patient care. Moffitt’s expert nursing staff is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center with Magnet® status, its highest distinction. With more than 5,200 team members, Moffitt has an economic impact in the state of $2.1 billion. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.