Rochester, Minnesota


KankeuFonkoua.Lionel@mayo.edu Clinical Profile


Lionel Aurelien (Lionel) A. Kankeu Fonkoua, M.D., is a medical oncologist with a research focus on the development of novel combinatorial immunotherapeutic strategies for gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary cancers. Dr. Kankeu Fonkoua collaborates with scientists and clinicians from various disciplines to conduct clinical trials and translational studies evaluating novel rational combinations to enhance anti-tumor immune response and improve clinical outcomes.

Focus areas

  • Harnessing the immune system for therapeutic benefit. Dr. Kankeu Fonkoua's major research focus is understanding ways to integrate and exploit the synergy among therapeutic modalities to reprogram or boost the host's anti-tumor immune response. An approach that targets multiple essential processes of tumorigenesis can overcome tumor-associated plasticity, clonal evolution and adaptive resistance, all of which limit the durable efficacy of current treatments.
  • Adoptive cellular immunotherapy. Dr. Kankeu Fonkoua aims to develop and optimize safe, effective and novel cell-based immunotherapeutics with enhanced specificity and tumoricidal properties. These include personalized anti-cancer vaccines (dendritic cell based) and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapies for gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary cancers. By isolating immature and immunosuppressive cells from a patient's blood, transforming them into potent immune-stimulatory cells in the laboratory, and then injecting them back directly into the patient's bloodstream or tumor, these novel therapies have the potential to induce long-term tumor-specific durable responses.
  • Immunotherapy biomarkers. A key area of Dr. Kankeu Fonkoua's research endeavors is to identify mechanisms of resistance to immunotherapy. Dr. Kankeu Fonkoua aims to establish immunologic correlates of clinical outcomes, which would increase the ability to identify and validate prognostic immune signatures and biomarkers. These immunotherapy biomarkers would ultimately help risk stratify patients and optimize the timing and design of combinatorial approaches.

Significance to patient care

Dr. Kankeu Fonkoua's research efforts aim to harness the power of the immune system to develop safer and more-effective therapeutic strategies for patients with gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary cancers.

Professional highlights

  • Robert A. Winn Diversity in Clinical Trials Career Development Award (Winn CDA), Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, 2021.
  • Career Enhancement Program award, Mayo Clinic Hepatobiliary SPORE, 2021.
  • Outstanding Hematology/Oncology Fellow, Minnesota Society of Clinical Oncology, 2020.
  • Young Investigator Award, American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2020.
  • Excellence in Research Award, Department of Medicine Housestaff, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, 2018.
  • Stanford Clinical Teaching Framework Certification, 2016.


Primary Appointment

  1. Senior Associate Consultant, Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Oncology

Academic Rank

  1. Assistant Professor of Oncology


  1. Fellow Hematology/Oncology, Programs in Rochester, Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine
  2. Residency - Internal Medicine Penn State University-Hershey Medical Center
  3. MD - Medicine Penn State College of Medicine
  4. BA - Biology, Pre-Medicine St Thomas University
  5. AA - Biology, Pre-Medicine Miami Dade College

Clinical Studies

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