Tumor Immunology & Immunotherapy


The UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Tumor Immunology & Immunotherapy (TII) 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. TII program investigators also actively pursue clinical translation of novel treatment strategies and in-depth analyses of patient-derived samples to further understand the mechanistic basis of response and resistance to therapies. This comprehensive process facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations and supports a systematic approach to the development of next-generation cancer immunotherapies.

The TII 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 the genetic engineering of immune-cell responses to cancer and understanding the interplay between the immune system and cancer, including 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 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 TII 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 (NCI), 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, the Association of American Physicians and the US National Academy of Medicine , is the recipient of the AACR Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award, the William B. Coley Award from Cancer Research Institute (CRI), the 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.

Co-director Yvonne Chen is an associate professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics. 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 served as the sponsor of the first investigator-initiated chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy trial at UCLA. 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, the Mark Foundation Emerging Leader Award, and the Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old STAR 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 TII 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

Below is a list of upcoming events of interest to the Tumor Immunology & Immunotherapy Research Program and its members. This calendar is updated automatically.

For a list of all upcoming Cancer Center events, please visit our Events Calendar.