Paul Castillo Caro, M.D., is an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics in the University of Florida College of Medicine and a physician-scientist in the T Cell Engineering Laboratory of the Pediatric Cancer Immunotherapy Initiative and the Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program at the University of Florida. He serves as a member of the UF Health Cancer Center’s Data Integrity and Safety Committee, the UF College of Medicine’s Scientific Review Committee and as a liaison of the UF Health Cancer Center’s Community Outreach and Engagement Council.

Paul Castillo Caro, M.D.

He received his medical degree from the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru. He completed his pediatric residency at the Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University. Next, he trained in hematology & oncology with an additional focus on stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy at the Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center –Center for Cell & Gene Therapy – Baylor College of Medicine.

At the University of Florida, his translational efforts are focused on developing new technologies that include systemic activation of innate and adaptive immunity to synergize and enhance CAR T-cell activity against metastatic osteosarcoma. His research has received multiple awards including the Hyundai Hope on Wheels Young Investigator Award, the American Brain Tumor Association Discovery Award, the Florida Department of Health Live Like Bella Discovery Award, the Gabrielle’s Angel Cancer Research Foundation Award and an institutional KL2 Award. His research endeavors are also supported by the STOP Children’s Cancer Inc.

At the UF Health Cancer Center, Castillo Caro is a member of the Immuno-Oncology and Microbiome research program. He was recently part of the UF team that developed an mRNA cancer vaccine that quickly reprogrammed the immune system to attack glioblastoma in a first-ever human clinical trial of four adult patients. Additionally, earlier this year he was accepted as part of the third cohort of the National Cancer Institute’s Early Investigator Advancement Program Scholars.

What are your current research interests and/or what is a project you are currently working on?

My research focuses on developing new immunotherapy technologies to treat patients, particularly children, with aggressive forms of what we call solid cancers (e.g., brain, bone, muscle cancers). 

Why did you decide on your field?

I never thought I was going to be immersed in research and immunotherapy for cancers. It happened randomly when I was doing my pediatric oncology fellowship and I was interested in exploring possible treatments for invasive fungal infections in bone marrow transplant patients. In this patient population, invasive fungal infections, particularly mucormycosis, were largely lethal to patients. Because of that interest, I got involved with a research group with extensive expertise in cellular therapies for cancers and I deviated a little to use that kind of therapy to treat these fatal infections. Over time I became deeply interested in exploring this field of immunotherapy further. 

Paul Castillo Caro, M.D., left, received a $400,000 grant from Hyundai Hope on Wheels during a ceremony at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in August 2023. It was his second grant from Hope on Wheels.

What excites you about your work?

What excites me the most is the thought that I could be contributing to find potential cures that will provide hope to patients and families. Breaking the bad news to patients and parents of the diagnosis of cancer is perhaps the worst meeting one can have. Knowing how difficult these diseases are to be cured is the inspiration to continue working tirelessly to have something to offer our patients. 

“Knowing how difficult these diseases are to be cured is the inspiration to continue working tirelessly to have something to offer our patients.”

Paul Castillo Caro, M.D.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with friends, especially trying the cuisine of any country. I enjoy nature, hiking, camping and mountain biking. 

A group of people gathers around a Stop Children's Cancer check for $1 million.
Dr. Castillo Caro’s pediatric cancer research has received ongoing support from Stop Children’s Cancer. In November 2023, Stop Children’s Cancer presented a renewed gift of $1 million to support cancer research and clinical trials in the University of Florida College of Medicine’s division of hematology and oncology over the next five years.