Melanoma immunotherapy research at UCLA

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admin August 23, 2021 Donors: 12
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The Alan Ghitis Association has funded several research projects at Prof. Riba’s laboratory focusing on different topics, to have a better chance of finding more effective therapies for melanoma.

Last update: September 2022

Melanoma research at the Jonsson Cancer Center of UCLA

The Alan Ghitis Association is committed to supporting eminent Pr. Antoni Ribas and his dedicated team in trying to overcome immunotherapy resistance. We have funded several research projects with great success and plan to fund more in the future. See below what has been happening so far and how you can help.

1st project: the research of Gabriel Abril-Rodriguez is being used by Pfizer

Step 1: discoveries

We have provided funds to a researcher in his laboratory and they made a fantastic discovery : removing PAK4 protein from cancer cells helps to bring T cells into the tumor to make the patient respond to immunotherapy.

Part of those funds were enabled by a private donation by Bill Ghitis before our association was set up.

The research headed by UCLA’s Dr. Antoni Ribas and the researcher Gabriel Abril-Rodriguez has been focused on overcoming resistance to immunotherapy

Step 2: clinical trial

Those laboratory-based findings have been tested in the clinic. The more we understand how PAK4 inhibition works, the easier it is to translate this science into a new drug that helps patients with cancer. 

Laboratory studies conducted by Dr. Gabriel Abril-Rodriguez determined that the inhibition of a single aspect of PAK4 function achieves the desired result of improving the immune response. Based on this important finding, the next step, which is likely to be taken by a company, is to develop new inhibitors of PAK4 that are designed to target individual functions of the gene without affecting its expression.

At the moment, Pfizer is using the research developed by Pr. Ribas’ team, which is one of the best possible outcomes because they have the means to develop treatments.

If you want to know more, click on the links to read some articles published about this project :

2nd project: the research project with Nataly Naser Al Deen is about to start

The focus will be on patients who acquired resistance to the anti-PD-1 immunotherapy treatment. This will be achieved by diving deep into the genomic sequencing profiles of these patients’ tumor biopsies and comparing them to normal adjacent tissues and to other responder patients that received the same therapy.

All this will help them understand the molecular mechanisms that might be driving this resistance to treatment.


Give your support to one of the most promising and prestigious laboratories in the world for cancer treatments.

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