The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Neuro-Oncology
Under the umbrella of the NIH-funded multiple-project Brain SPORE (2013-2018), of which I am co-leader, my laboratory's research interest primarily focuses on the development of novel biological therapies for the treatment of malignant gliomas and other solid tumors. Specifically, I am interested in developing new immune therapies and novel oncolytic adenoviruses. In this regard, we have identified a replication-competent adenovirus (Delta-24-RGD) that cannot bind the Rb protein and triggers a potent anticancer effect with negligible toxicity. The Delta-24 adenoviral construct is protected by several patents and is being examined in clinical trials for patients with malignant brain tumors at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the Erasmus Cancer Center in Rotterdam, Holland, and in the Clinica Universitaria of Pamplona, Spain. These studies showed complete regression of tumors in a subset of patients. Using unique clinical material and animal models, we are currently testing the hypothesis that after the infection with the oncolytic virus, the trigger of an anti-tumor immune response enhances the direct oncolytic effect. The focus of my laboratory over the next five years will be on discovering the immune mechanisms underlying the anti-tumor immune response to improve the anticancer effect of oncolytic adenoviruses and generate innovative cancer vaccines. I am also interested in ascertaining the role of immune check point proteins (CTLA4, PD1, OX40) in the protection of glioma cells from the immune system and in understanding how viruses could be utilized to disarm cell-cell interactions leading to tumorscape. I have been a member of the Manpower and Training NIH study section and, during seven years, I have evaluated the curriculum and career plans of hundreds of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. A tutorial in my laboratory would provide a student experience with the general application of the scientific method to the fields of immunology, cancer biology and virology. Specific ongoing studies are in the areas of autophagy and antigen presentation, apoptosis regulation in cancer, immune cell populations, study of cytokines, viral vector design, and pathologic examination of normal tissue and tumors in animal models and human patients. In addition to NIH, several foundations, including Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation, the Broach Foundation, the Will Power Research Fund, and the American Brain Tumor Association, support my research. Previous GSBS students in my laboratory have been awarded with several fellowships including the Schissler Foundation and the American Legion Auxiliary fellowships, and have accepted positions in Johns Hopkins University (as Director of Cell Center and Biorepository under Bert Vogelstein), and postdoctoral fellowships at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard University, in Boston. Others have chosen a different career path and are currently accomplished college professors. Previous international postdoctoral fellows that I have mentored or co-mentored have accepted positions as faculty in South Korea, Greece, and Spain.
Education & Training
M.D. - University Autonomous of Barcelona - 1984