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Huntsman Cancer Institute Announces New Phase I Clinical Trial Director

Ignacio Garrido-Laguna head shot
Ignacio Garrido-Laguna, MD, PHD, MBA

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah (the U) has appointed Ignacio Garrido-Laguna, MD, PhD, as director of its Phase I Clinical Trials unit. In this position, Garrido-Laguna will oversee all aspects of HCI’s Phase I clinical trials.

Clinical trials are rigorous medical studies of new drugs and treatment approaches. Trials are designed in stages, or phases. The findings of one phase are used to further test the drug to pinpoint its most effective use. Phase I trials take drugs that have undergone extensive laboratory testing with positive results and test them in humans for the first time. For cancer patients, a clinical trial may be the only treatment option available if their tumor does not respond to currently approved treatments, often called standard of care.

“Dr. Garrido-Laguna is uniquely and ideally qualified to lead the Phase I clinical trials unit at HCI. He has deep knowledge of drug development and early phase clinical trials, and he is a national leader in GI malignancies,” said David Gaffney, MD, PhD, senior director of clinical research at HCI and professor of radiation oncology at the U. “Most importantly Dr. Garrido-Laguna is an outstanding and compassionate clinician and takes excellent care of his patients.”

In his new role, Garrido-Laguna will coordinate and oversee all Phase I clinical trials at HCI. The purpose of Phase I clinical trials is to determine a safe dose of the drug, as well as to observe whether the treatment has any beneficial effects. Participants in a Phase I clinical trial may have access to some of the latest cancer treatments.

In addition to his new role, Garrido-Laguna is a HCI physician-scientist specializing in pancreatic cancer, and an associate professor of internal medicine at the U. He received his medical training in Madrid, Spain, at Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre. Prior to joining HCI in 2011, Garrido-Laguna completed a postdoctoral fellowship in drug development in GI malignancies at Johns Hopkins, and a two-year clinical fellowship in the Phase 1 Program at MD Anderson, which is the largest Phase I program in the world. 

“I am looking forward to working closely with HCI’s Phase I clinical trial team to understand better ways we can treat cancer, especially though the development of new drugs,” said Garrido-Laguna. “HCI provides a wide array of important clinical trials for patients with the hope of finding new treatments that will eventually become standard of care.”

Every cancer treatment in use today began as a clinical trial, making clinical trials a critical part of advancing medical sciences that yields insights on better ways to treat cancer, detect it earlier, and wherever possible, to prevent it outright. In order to ensure patient safety, clinical trials have very strict reporting and monitoring requirements, which means they are often only available at major medical centers. At any given time, HCI has an average of 150-200 clinical trials open to cancer patients. 

Cancer touches all of us.