“By stimulating the ability of our immune system to attack tumour cells, this year’s Nobel Prize laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy,” the Nobel Assembly of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said when announcing the award to Dr Allison and Tasuku Honjo, MD, PhD, of Kyoto University in Japan.
Dr Allison said: “I’m honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition. A driving motivation for scientists is simply to push the frontiers of knowledge. I didn’t set out to study cancer, but to understand the biology of T cells – these incredible cells travel to our bodies and work to protect us.”
Dr Allison developed an antibody to block the checkpoint protein CTLA-4 and demonstrated the success of the approach in experimental models. His work led to development of the first immune checkpoint inhibitor drug, Ipilimumab, which was approved for late-stage melanoma by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2011.
“I never dreamed my research would take the direction it has,” Dr Allison said. “It’s a great, emotional privilege to meet cancer patients who’ve been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade. They are living proof of the power of basic science, of following our urge to learn and to understand how things work.”