Skip to main content
Cancer Researcher Focuses on the Underrepresented

Dr. Julio Pimentel praises the training he received at the Miller School

Photography by Frank Rogozienski


ulio Pimentel, Ph.D., MSCTI ’18, is nationally recognized for transforming patient care through innovative research in therapy-resistant cancers and raising cancer awareness among underserved populations.

Dr. Pimentel is a first-generation Mexican American, and his desire to serve as a liaison between the Hispanic community and the medical field began at an early age. He was a teenager when his volunteer experience at a local hospital inspired him to pursue a Ph.D. in cancer research. Most of the cancer patients were from underrepresented communities, and he recognized a disparity in their health care. He also questioned the effectiveness of certain treatments.

“I wanted to understand why some tumors were responsive to treatment and others were not,” said Dr. Pimentel, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California San Diego. “I also felt a responsibility to help the underserved.”

With no prior bench or clinical experience in cancer research, Dr. Pimentel wanted to diversify his skill set before earning his Ph.D. He enrolled in the Miller School’s Master of Science in Clinical and Translational Investigation, or MSCTI, program, which trains students in the principles and practice of translational science and clinical research. The program allowed him to investigate different cancers and novel therapeutic options for therapy-resistant cancers — training that laid the groundwork for his Ph.D. coursework.

“The program exposes clinicians to science and scientists to medicine,” Dr. Pimentel said. “By working collaboratively in multidisciplinary research teams, I was able to expand my research and learn how to effectively present it to a diverse set of audiences.”

Dr. Pimentel has received multiple awards for his work, which focuses on the molecular mechanisms of vascular inflammation, immune evasion and deregulated cell death pathways in triple-negative breast cancer.

He has presented his research at national conferences and has been recognized as a National Latino Leader by the National Diversity Council. He received the 2022 Alumnus of the Year Award from UM’s Toppel Career Center and was recognized as a member of the national 40 Under 40 in Cancer Class of 2021 and Oakland County’s Oakland Together 40 Under 40 Class of 2023.

Dr. Pimentel’s plans include leading his own cancer research lab and directing a cancer research program.

“I want to help teach medical students to become better scientists and continue to raise cancer awareness among underrepresented populations,” he said.