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Dr. Elsa R. Flores

Elsa R. Flores, PhD

Associate Center Director, Basic Science

Dr. Elsa R. Flores is the Associate Center Director for the Division of Basic Science and is responsible for overseeing research and administrative operations in the division, which is composed of five academic research departments: Cancer PhysiologyDrug DiscoveryImmunologyMolecular Oncology and Tumor Biology. Basic science research at Moffitt Cancer Center involves lab work that is focused on understanding the molecular basis of cancer development, progression and therapeutic resistance.  Research in the division also involves the understanding of the tumor microenvironment and cancer ecosystems. Researchers in the division use a number of cutting-edge technologies and innovative approaches including genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, computational analysis, and machine learning to develop a deep molecular understanding of the mechanisms and causes of cancer at a biological and molecular level. Dr. Flores is also the executive champion for three of the CCSG programs, Cancer Biology and Evolution (CBE), Immuno-oncology (IO), and Molecular Medicine (MM). In this role, Dr. Flores works to accelerate the discovery of cancer mechanisms and to enhance the translation of basic science to the clinic. Dr. Flores’s vision includes recruiting bioengineers to Moffitt to enhance translation of basic science to the clinic through the generation of novel research, biomaterials and medical devices.

Dr. Flores is internationally recognized for her seminal contributions to understanding the function of the p53 family in the initiation, progression and metastasis of cancer. Her lab demonstrated that: 1) p63 and p73 are bona fide suppressors of tumorigenesis and metastasis; 2) p63 regulates adult stem cell maintenance and the transcription of metabolic programs to promote longevity; and 3) p53 family members play critical roles in germline embryonic stem cells and in the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells. More recent work from her lab has focused on understanding the p53 family and regulation of non-coding RNAs and metabolic pathways to develop novel targeted therapies for the p53 pathway in cancer. Dr. Flores has published over 85 papers including in high impact factor journals, Nature, Cancer Cell, Molecular Cell, Cell Stem Cell, Cell Metabolism, and Nature Communications.

Dr. Flores is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  Flores was named an NCI R35 Outstanding Investigator in 2015 and has won numerous prestigious awards throughout her career including a Rita Allen Foundation Award, V Foundation Scholar, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America Scholar, and the American Cancer Society Grant Scholar. She is a Moffitt Distinguished Scholar and holds the Kaul Foundation Endowed Chair. 

Dr. Flores is also currently the PI on an NCI-funded P01 program project grant focused on identifying metabolic vulnerabilities in lung cancer.  Additionally, she is Co-PI on an innovative postdoctoral training program funded through an NCI T32 to train postdocs working at the interface of molecular cancer biology and data science (Integrated Program in Cancer and Data Science - iCADs). She also serves as chair of the NIH study section, Cancer Molecular Pathobiology (CAMP). Prior to her appointment as ACD of Basic Science, Dr. Flores served as Chair of the Department of Molecular Oncology and Co-Leader of the Cancer Biology and Evolution Program.

She also was previously a Professor of Molecular and Cellular Oncology and served as Program Co-Leader for the Metastasis Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center and as Director of the Genes and Development PhD Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship funded by The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in the laboratory of Dr. Tyler Jacks at The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT.