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Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
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Owen Witte, MD

Founding director of the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center


Our research interests center on understanding cancer pathogenesis and the immune response as a way to define new targets for therapy. Past work has defined the family of tyrosine kinase enzymes including Bcr-Abl and its role in human Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia and Bruton’s tyrosine kinase as regulator of lymphocyte growth control. This has helped enable the development of drugs like Imatinib and Ibrutinib now used in the treatment of multiple leukemias, lymphomas, and other cancers. More recent research has centered on epithelial cancers including prostate cancer. We have defined surface antigens like PSCA and others as targets for monoclonal antibody or chimeric antigen receptor T-cell mediated therapy. A fundamental understanding of normal prostate development and stem cells is used as a comparison to the process of prostate cancer development, metastasis, and conversion to its aggressive castration resistant form. We have defined specific kinases and their pathways that point towards new targets for therapy, as well as a developmental change of tumors in response to therapy that drives the evolution of a very aggressive small cell histology with neuroendocrine features. In many of our studies we employ advanced imaging technologies including Positron Emission Tomography to monitor specific cell populations and aspects of tumor and immune response metabolism.

Education & Training

  • 1971: Cornell University, BS, Microbiology
  • 1971-1976: Laboratory of Irving Weissman, Stanford, predoctoral fellowship
  • 1976: Stanford School of Medicine, MD, molecular virology, immunology and medicine
  • 1976-1980: Laboratory of Nobel laureate Dr. David Baltimore, MIT, postdoctoral fellowship

Awards & Honors

  • 2016: University Professor by University of California Regents
  • 2015: American Association for Cancer Research G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award
  • 2014: The Rowley Prize awarded by the Intl Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Foundation; Elected Fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research Academy
  • 2012-2017 Appointed member of the President’s Cancer Panel
  • 2009 Cotlove Award, Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians & Scientists
  • 2003 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s de Villiers International Achievement Award; Elected member of the Institute of Medicine
  • 2000 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize
  • 1997 Elected member of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 1993 William Dameshek Prize, American Society of Hematology
  • 1996 Elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1991 Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award of the American Association for Cancer Research
  • 1990 Milken Family Medical Foundation Award in Basic Cancer Research