Physician-scientist honored for his pioneering work in cancer immunology

Dr. Antoni Ribas is director of the UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center's tumor immunology program and president of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Dr. Antoni Ribas, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine and director of the Tumor Immunology Program at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been awarded the American Association of Cancer Research’s sixth annual AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology.

The award recognizes scientists for their highly significant and innovative research in cancer immunology that has had a far-reaching impact on the cancer field. Ribas will be honored with the award during the AACR Annual Meeting 2018, to be held April 14 to 18 in Chicago.

As part of the recognition, Ribas will deliver an award lecture on Tuesday, April 17, during the annual meeting, titled, “Genetic Engineering of Anticancer Immune Responses.”

Ribas is being recognized for his leadership in the development of new cancer immunotherapies that are changing how patients with cancer are being treated. Ribas’ research has been aimed at gaining a better understanding of how the immune system can be effectively used to fight cancer in order to develop more effective and less toxic therapies for patients with melanoma. He led the clinical program that demonstrated the effectiveness of the drug pembrolizumab, which has been a significant advancement in the treatment of melanoma by turning on the immune system to fight the deadly cancer. 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. Furthermore, Ribas’ laboratory research has allowed defining mechanisms that lead to response and resistance to this class of new drugs.

Ribas is also the director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Center at UCLA, which brings together the nation’s leading cancer centers to develop new immunotherapies for metastatic disease. The consortium’s aim is to maximize the potential of cancer immunotherapy research by building strong collaborations between researchers, nonprofits and the industry, who are all working together to get new treatments to patients faster.

“It’s an honor to have my research and laboratory recognized for our dedication in finding new ways to eradicate deadly cancers,” Ribas said. “While we have come a long way in the field of cancer immunology, there is still so much more to do. We will continue to build on the recent successes to help achieve even greater therapeutic success.” 

The AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology was established to honor the memory of the late Lloyd J. Old, who was internationally recognized as one of the founders and standard-bearers of the field of cancer immunology.