James P. Allison helps to defeat cancer

On Oct. 1, 2018, Dr. Jim Allison, chair of Immunology and executive director of the immunotherapy platform at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his groundbreaking immunotherapy research. This cutting-edge cancer treatment trains the immune system to attack cancer, rather than treating the cancer directly.

“By stimulating the ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells, this year’s Nobel Prize laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy,” the Nobel Assembly of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm noted in announcing the award to Allison and Tasuku Honjo, M.D., Ph.D., of Kyoto University in Japan.

Allison started his career at MD Anderson in 1977, arriving as one of the first employees of a new basic science research center located in Smithville, Texas. He was recruited back to MD Anderson in November 2012 to lead the Immunology Department and to establish an immunotherapy research platform for MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program.

“Jim Allison’s accomplishments on behalf of patients cannot be overstated,” said MD Anderson President Peter WT Pisters, M.D. “His research has led to life-saving treatments for people who otherwise would have little hope. The significance of immunotherapy as a form of cancer treatment will be felt for generations to come.”

The prize recognizes Allison’s basic science discoveries on the biology of T cells, the adaptive immune system’s soldiers, and his invention of immune checkpoint blockade to treat cancer.