Conquering Cancer? 

Collaborations and Initiatives for Global Impact

An Interview with Dr. Hugo De La Peña

“Dr. Hugo De La Peña, an eminent oncologist and innovator, shares insights on revolutionising cancer care through pioneering research, compassionate patient support, and relentless dedication to curing cancer.”


Hugo De La Peña stands as a beacon of innovation and dedication in the realm of cancer care. An esteemed Medical Oncology Consultant within the NHS, Dr. De La Peña’s journey is not merely a career but a lifelong commitment to combating one of humanity’s most formidable adversaries: cancer.

Born with an insatiable drive for discovery, Dr. De La Peña’s academic journey began with distinction, graduating at the apex of his class from Medical School with unparalleled academic honours. His thirst for knowledge propelled him across continents, culminating in a PhD in Cancer Genetics and Tumour Immunology from University College London, where his ground-breaking research in cancer vaccines garnered international acclaim, earning him the coveted Young Scientist Award.

Throughout his illustrious career, Dr. De La Peña has been a trailblazer, challenging conventional wisdom and pioneering novel approaches to cancer treatment. His relentless pursuit of understanding the intricate dynamics between the immune system and cancer has led to paradigm shifts in oncological therapeutics. Through a fusion of rigorous research and compassionate patient care, Dr. De La Peña has elevated the standard of cancer treatment, earning him recognition as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

In our exclusive interview with Entrepreneur Prime magazine, Dr. De La Peña unveils the insights and inspirations that have shaped his remarkable journey. From the challenges of navigating the arduous path to consultancy to the transformative power of immunotherapy, Dr. De La Peña offers invaluable wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs and healthcare pioneers alike.

Beyond his clinical endeavours, Dr. Peña’s impact reverberates across diverse spheres, from his role as a Cancer Research UK Ambassador to his commitment as a Maggie’s Clinical Lead, ensuring holistic support for cancer patients and their families.

As we delve into Dr. De La Peña’s narrative, we glimpse the essence of his mission: to redefine the narrative of cancer from one of despair to one of hope, resilience, and relentless pursuit of a cure.

Join us as we embark on a journey through the mind and heart of Dr. Hugo De La Peña, a visionary entrepreneur whose unwavering resolve is reshaping the landscape of cancer care.

What inspired you to start your business career?

For me curing cancer is not a business, is my life’s commitment. Killing cancer for a living gives me immeasurable satisfaction and it is the best thing I could ever have dreamed of doing. Cancer will affect 1 in 2 of us in our lifetime, so very early on in life, I decided I had one of two choices: either bury my head in the sand and hope it will never happen to me or tackle it, prevent it from happening if I can or prepare to beat it when my turn comes. Cancer is a brutal disease, make no mistake, and the devastation it causes is physical, mental and economical at a monumental level. I learnt that as a teenager and it was the brutality I witnessed what made me study medicine as the path to become a cancer killing specialist.

What challenges did you find at the beginning of your journey and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge was the time it takes to reach consultancy, that is when you can finally plan and directly drive clinical trials and make treatment decisions. It took 7 years of medical school, 10 years of research and 4 years of specialty. Most friends my age were making serious money when I was on call at weekends or nights studying for exit exams. So patience really is a virtue and envy of what others are already doing has no place. To overcome challenges, you just have to keep working hard because you know payback will come once you are out of the tunnel, as long as you know exactly how long the tunnel is. Do please surround yourself of people that are either cleverer than you or experts in other areas, some of them (not all) will help you later on. Be nice to people, you have no idea how many doors that will open to you when you least expect it. Envy from others is inevitable, but pay no attention, easier said than done, but if you are doing what you are doing with hard work, integrity and makes you happy, you have already won.    

How did you get the idea for your business research and why did you think it would work?

Cancer cure rates were 25% when I was born (in the 70s), they are 50% now (2020s) and in the next 10 years they will be 75%. So I knew early on increasing cancer cure rates was truly a priority and unmet need for mankind. Companies and scientist to an extent, put most of their money in gene therapy projects, which many thought would be the magic bullet for most diseases including cancer. Genetic engineering has become a wonderful tool, but gene therapy hasn’t been the golden bullet people thought it would be. I bet instead in using the immune system to kill cancers and I concentrated in immunotherapy before it became the (good) monster it is now and before it was given the Nobel prize in 2018. We were taught at medical school that cancers were invisible to the immune system because cancers come from self and our immune systems are trained not to recognise us as foreign. That is something I never believed. I always challenged that idea as I already knew some leukaemias could be cured using the immune system. Going against the “status quo” is always hard, especially as a student because no one will take you seriously; challenging what “we know for a fact” is never popular. I also knew malignant transformation is a common occurrence in all of us, it happens almost daily and our immune systems deal with that. I just needed to prove it. It is clear now and widely accepted that the immune system is the most powerful cancer killing machinery known to man and all the sceptics have now jumped into the bang wagon. The fact we cure more cancers now and we have started to cure the (previously) incurable cancers has made immunotherapy the first line treatment for most cancers. I therefore say immunotherapy is simply better than sliced bread.

What kind of research did you do before you started?

I have been doing research literally all my life, from thinking and overthinking why cancers are on the rise, to having spent over 10 years (PH and Postdocs) doing translational research directly analysing human behaviour and creating scientific platforms to kill cancers using the immune system. I am still not done and keep focused in understanding how the immune system kills cancer and how we can still tune immunotherapy strategies to kill cancers without toxicity. I am still doing research by collaborating with universities providing vital real cancer samples so that we can understand cancer biology better.

How did you raise the money to start your business?

Knowledge is money, after finishing medical school, I had to convince the Mexican Government to pay for my PHD in London and they funded my PHD fully, knowledge again (put on paper) won me hundreds of thousands of pounds from Cancer Charities to fund my postdoctoral research projects. That is incredibly stressful, but is how scientists generate, earn and make money to keep going. You don’t do this single handed, that is why it is so important to surround yourself of mentors and a good team(s) where organic collaborations become formal and everyone wins.

What makes your business unique?

The relentless hunger to cure people. I can make people happy by giving them their life back. Many cancers happen for no reason at all, no one is at fault, most of my patients don’t smoke, don’t drink, are not overweight and have a healthy lifestyle and yet cancer “just happens”. So when we cure those cancers, we give life back. Some other cancers are preventable when they are caused by smoking, excessive alcohol drinking and irresponsible sun exposure for example, so when we cure those cancers, we give people a 2nd chance at living and again, if I have to accept that a cancer cannot be cured, then we aim to buy precious time for those patients.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to become an entrepreneur?

Do your homework, if your idea is sound, stick to your guns and go for it. If you work hard and you are honest, you will ALWAYS do well. Be nice to people, you will be surprised how many doors that simple gesture will open for you. Don’t quit if you fail, failure is part of success and try hard to ignore envy, that you will face for sure.

How did you market your business?

I let International Clinical Trials “market” my practice. Private medicine is full of charlatans and the word Cancer brings panic and desperation to patients and relatives. Some people take advantage of that fear and make a killing with shameful, unethical promises and unproven treatments, so I am always very careful not to give false hope, but equally, don’t take it away either. Every treatment decision I make is based on evidence to back me up and protect myself as well. It’s about being honest and making sure you go to bed with a clean conscience, but I don’t hide facts from patients, if its good news I tell them, but if it’s bad news, I also tell them straight.

What daily habits do you use to help you succeed?

30 protected minutes every day to release stress, chronic stress is the source of all evil, chronic stress dampens your immune system and that increase your chances of having/developing cancer, chronic stress will also affect your personal and work relationships alongside your mental health. Have some protected “me time” daily, very difficult I know, but the best ideas I have ever had happen when I am walking or running on my own.

What do you most enjoy about working for yourself?

Seeing cancers melt away because of my treatment plans is the most enjoyable and gratifying part of my job, giving patients their life back is a pretty amazing thing to do and gives me work purpose. I teach and teach every time I can, I teach secondary school children and the general public about cancer prevention (40% of cancers are preventable) and the risks around smoking, vaping, excessive alcohol drinking, irresponsible sun exposure and being overweight. I teach how to kill and prevent cancer to medical students, doctors, registrars and consultants because the more of us we are out there, the worse it gets for cancer. 

What plans do you have for the future?

As NHS Cancer Consultant my ongoing and future job is to treat as many cancer patients as possible making sure we have access to clinical trials so that we can keep increasing our cure and survival rates. 

As a CRUK Ambassador my ongoing and future job is to create awareness about the preventable causes of cancer at local and national level by talking to as many kids, adults and ministers as possible at organised events. I also raised funds relentlessly to support cancer research projects, because the more research there is, the less cancer there is as well.

As a Royal College of Physicians Chief SPR Mentor, my ongoing and future job is to inspire and advice junior doctors to get involved in top level management projects to change and improve our NHS management and service delivery strategies. 

As Maggie’s Clinical Lead, my ongoing and future job is to make sure we offer medically sound and evidence-based support to cancer patients as soon as the diagnosis of cancer is being given, but the support is also for the relatives who find navigating the diagnosis of cancer in a loved one just as hard.