2008 Early Career Investigator Grant Recipient — Jose Conejo-Garcia, MD, PhD
The goal of Dr. Consejo-Garcia’s project is to enhance the immune response of ovarian cancer patients to prevent recurrences and induce long-term remissions. Recent research shows that certain molecules in the body, called microRNAs, help control immune responses. In his project, Dr. Consejo-Garcia plans to reprogram patients’ immune cells with selected microRNAs so their immune cells will act against ovarian cancers. Ovarian cancer, it is believed, prevents immune cells from doing their normal job, which is to attack the tumor. By reprogramming the patients’ immune cells, he expects the cells will do what they are supposed to do and kill the cancer. The findings could lead to new immunotherapies which, following standard “debulking/chemotherapy” approaches, could improve the lives of women with ovarian cancer.
Dr. Conejo-Garcia is an Associate Professor in the Immunology Program at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. Prior to moving to Wistar, he was an Assistant Professor of the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology, and of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, as well as member of the Immunobiology Program at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.
Dr. Conejo-Garcia is known for his research in the immunobiology of ovarian cancer, a field in which he has published >20 papers in top-ranked journals. His primary areas of interest are in the development of novel treatments that boost spontaneous anti-tumor immune responses against ovarian cancer and make them therapeutically relevant. To overcome the mechanisms of immunosuppression orchestrated by the tumor microenvironment, Dr. Conejo-Garcia has developed novel host conditioning strategies based on the use of nanoparticles, immunotoxins and T cell adoptive therapies. He is the recipient of the 2006 Liz Tilberis Award for Excellence in Ovarian Cancer Research from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF) and is the Principal Investigator of an NCI R01 award to define the role of inflammatory cells in ovarian cancer and another pending NCI R21 grant to re-program immune cells at tumor locations with nanoparticles.
Before joining Dartmouth in September of 2005, Dr. Conejo-Garcia spent more than four years at the University of Pennsylvania working in Dr. Coukos group at the Center for Research in Reproduction and Women’s Health on the immunobiology of ovarian cancer.
Dr. Conejo-Garcia received his medical degree from the University of Zaragoza (Spain) in 1990. While completing a residency in Clinical Chemistry at the University Hospital of Guadalajara (Spain), he received a fellowship from the Spanish government to start a Ph.D. in Molecular Oncology at the University of Alcala (Spain). Dr. Conejo-Garcia received his title of board certified specialist in Clinical Chemistry (European Union) in 1996 and finished his Ph.D (Cum Laude unanimously) in 1998. He then received a different post-residency fellowship from the Spanish government for a postdoctoral stay at the University of Bern (Switzerland), where he spent one year working on pancreatic cancer. Before moving to the US, he spent two additional years working on the identification of novel peptides with immunological and antimicrobial activity at IPF Pharmaceuticals (Hanover, Germany), where he discovered and patented most human beta-defensins. Dr. Conejo-Garcia has published 42 scientific articles and 4 book chapters, and is co-author of 3 patent applications from different institutions.
In addition to the Liz Tilberis honor and his 2 post-residency fellowships from the Spanish government, Dr. Conejo-Garcia has received several awards, including the 2004 basic science poster award at the 35th Annual Meeting of Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, an ovarian spore developmental pilot project award by the Fox Chase Cancer Center Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Ovarian Cancer in 2005 and the 2003 Health investigation award of the University Hospital of Guadalajara (Spain).
Watch an interview with Dr. Conejo-Garcia on the Dartmouth website