Dr. Villalona’s most significant contribution is his ability to applying novel therapeutic agents with diversed targets and translating his and others laboratory observations into solid tumor therapy. He has played prominent leadership role in pioneering clinical and research teams that evaluated many novel cytotoxic agents (see pubs). Dr. Villalona has been a strong force behind the recent establishment of the thoracic oncology center at OSU.
Dr. Villalona’s unique efforts in leading successful Phase I and II clinical trials is that he also tried to understand the molecular basis of drug actions. With a specific focus on solid tumors such as lung cancer, Dr. Villalona has studied diverse molecules, cell signaling pathways, and transcription regulators involved in cancer progression and maintenance. This includes the development of two transgenic mouse models which expressed mutant forms of p53 (p53-273H, -175H) under the control of the lung-specific surfactant protein C promoter. Those p53 transgenic mice develop lung adenocarcinomas. These models are currently being used to develop novel therapeutic strategies. He has further identified ethnicity-related variations in EGFR polymorphisms and somatic mutations, and is studying the genetics, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of EGFR inhibition in African-American patients.
Dr. Villalona has received fourteen federal grants, mostly served as the principal investigator. He is presently Principal Investigator on an NIH RO1 grant, an N01 grant, and a T32 training grant in Clinical research and supported by numerous investigator-initiated clinical trials with pharmaceutical companies. His abilities as reviewer and mentor has led to membership or faculty status in study sections/advisory commitees (NCI/C-ONC, ASCO/AACR Vail Workshop in Clinical Research, NCI Investigational Drug Steering Committee, AACR Clinical Research Program Committee), as well as, primary mentor in two K awards and faculty in two T-32s and a K-12 grant.
Dr. Villalona has received fifteen honors and research recognition; distiguished ones are from the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Urena (Dominican Republic), National Cancer Institute (for outstanding example of translational research), the Fray Anton de Montesinos award to the most accomplished Dominican professional in the USA, and the V foundation/AACR translational cancer research. He also has co-Chaired the NCI/CTEP DNA repair Task Force and Investigational Drug Steering Committee and member of the NCI Clinical Trials Advisory Committee, and serves on the editorial board of three Journals. He has published more than a hundred peer-reviewed manuscripts, review articles, and book chapters, mostly in journals ranked in the top 10 % of the cancer or translational research fields.
Dr. Villalona is an influential and enthusiastic mentor and teacher, providing inspiration and intellectual stimulus to our oncology fellows and residents, particulary in a much-needed area of advising minority students and mentoring them in a career of academic medicine. He, serving as a role model, has geared several of our medical professionals to pursue academic careers in the oncology field.