Physician-scientist honored for contributions in advancing cancer care

UCLA cancer researcher Dr. Antoni Ribas
Dr. Antoni Ribas in his lab.

Dr. Antoni Ribas, director of the tumor immunology program at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, was honored with the Award of Excellence in Medicine by the Hope Funds for Cancer Research for his contributions in developing new therapies for malignant melanoma, helping significantly increase the life-expectancy and quality of life for people with this disease.

The award is given annually to five physicians and researchers who have made major breakthroughs in basic and translational research leading to better understanding of the causes of cancer and new approaches for treating cancer.

Ribas, a physician-scientist and professor of medicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, led the clinical program that demonstrated the effectiveness of the drug pembrolizumab, the first-of-its-kind immunotherapy, to treat advanced melanoma. Formerly known as MK-3475, pembrolizumab is an antibody that works by blocking the immune system’s “brakes,” allowing it to recognize and attack cancer cells.

This was the first of the class of PD-1 blocking antibodies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of any cancer. Ribas and his laboratory continue to develop new immunotherapies for this disease.

The recipients will be recognized at the organization's annual awards dinner on July 27, 2019 at Rosecliff in Newport, Rhode Island.

Ribas is a member of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA and serves as the director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Center at UCLA.