Leonid S. Metelitsa, MD, PhD


  • Texas Medical Center

Phone: 832-824-4395

Contact Information

1102 Bates Ave., Ste. 1570
Houston, TX 77023
United States
Texas US

Research Laboratory

Research Area

  • Neuroblastoma

Co-Director, Neuroblastoma Program
Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Section of Hematology/Oncology, Baylor College of Medicine


School Education Degree Year
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles/Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California post-doctoral fellow 2002
N.N. Blokhin Memorial Cancer Research Center of Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia university Doctor of Philosophy 1995
Tver State Medical Academy, Russia medical school Doctor of Medicine 1992


Organization Name Role
American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Member
American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI) Elected Member
American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) Member

Research Statement

Dr. Leonid Metelitsa’s research focuses on understanding the role of Vα24-invariant natural killer T (NKT) cells in tumor immunity and translating this knowledge into NKT cell-based cancer immunotherapies. His group was the first to demonstrate that NKT cells localize to primary tumors in human patients and that presence of these cells at the tumor site is associated with favorable outcomes in the clinic (Metelitsa et al, JEM, 2004). Further studies revealed the underlying mechanistic basis of NKT cell tumor localization and function in the tumor microenvironment (Song et al, JCI, 2007; Song et al, JCI, 2009; Liu et al, JCI, 2012).

Based on the knowledge gained from studying NKT cell immunobiology, the Metelitsa group has developed original technologies and processes for NKT cell isolation, genetic modification with chimeric antigen receptors (CAR), and ex vivo expansion to clinical scale (Heczey et al, Blood, 2014; Tian et al, JCI, 2016). These efforts have resulted in initiation of a first-in-human CAR NKT cell clinical trial, GINAKIT2 (NCT03294954), that will test NKTs expressing an optimized second-generation GD2-specific CAR in children with neuroblastoma.

Clinical Special Interests

Solid Tumors

Research Interests

Va24-Ja18-invariant Natural Killer T (iNKT) cells
NKT-based immunotherapeutic strategies