Who is Nobel Medicine Prize victor James P Allison?

Faith Castro
October 1, 2018

James P Allison of USA, who jointly won the Nobel Medicine Prize with Tasaku Honjo of Japan for their discovery of cancer therapy by "inhibition of negative immune regulation", was intrigued by the immune system right from the time when he was an undergraduate and chose to dedicate his life's work to understand how it worked.

Allison, 70, "realised the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumours", the Nobel jury said during Monday's prize announcement in Stockholm. Research by Allison at the University of Texas in the USA and Honjo at Japan's Kyoto University explored how the body's immune system can be harnessed to attack cancer cells by releasing the brakes on immune cells.

"I had lung cancer", the member was quoted as saying, "and thought I was playing my last round of golf".

The list of other possible awardees included a number of American researchers including Arlene Sharpe and Gordon Freeman at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Jedd Wolchok at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and Carl June at the University of Pennsylvania, who pioneered another approach to immunotherapy.

Allison has been recognised for his breakthrough research in cancer immunology with numerous awards. Their research has led to the development of drugs that release that Human immune system against the cancer cells. He now works at Houston's M.D. "Immune checkpoint therapy" has revolutionised cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed".

In fact, Allison was instrumental in creating the research environment of the current Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley as well as the department's division of immunology, in which he served stints as chair and division head during his time at Berkeley, said David Raulet, director of Berkeley's Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative (IVRI).

Normally, PD-1 proteins work like sunglasses.

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Allison's interest in the immune system was deepened by an experiment he conducted on mice when he was a graduate student.

"When Dana showed me the results, I was really surprised", Allison said.

Honjo's therapy takes a similar but more direct approach.

Other cancer treatments have been awarded Nobel prizes, including hormone treatment for prostate cancer in 1966, chemotherapy in 1988 and bone marrow transplants for leukemia in 1990.

Medicine is the first of the Nobel Prizes awarded each year. No literature prize is being given this year.

The Nobel Prize is the world's most prestigious annual award for outstanding work in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and promotion of peace.

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