"While most researchers investigating cancer immunology were advocating vaccines to turn "on" T cells to drive antitumor immune responses, Dr. Allison was proposing the opposite-to block the "off" signal, according to the ASCO Post, a newspaper that covers cancer research".
Allison, professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, worked on a protein known as CTLA-4 and realised that if this could be blocked, a brake would be released, unleashing immune cells to attack tumours. He developed this concept into a new approach for treating patients.
Allison has been recognised for his breakthrough research in cancer immunology with numerous awards. "Immune checkpoint therapy" has revolutionised cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed", the Nobel committee stated. "Clearly, immunotherapy now has taken its place along with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation as a reliable and objective way to treat cancer". "I didn't set out to study cancer, but to understand the biology of T cells, these incredible cells that travel our bodies and work to protect us", he added.
"I've been doing this sort of stuff for years, and I'd never seen anything like that", Allison said.
"When we showed (Professor Ralph) Reisfeld a paper we wrote, he actually said, 'I don't want my name on it". One cancer doctor said "an untold number of lives. have been saved by the science that they pioneered".
Allison's and Honjo's prize-winning work started in the 1990s and was part of significant advances in cancer immunotherapy. As a result, the T-cells could kill the cancer cells.
T-cells are a type of white blood cell that play a central role in the body's natural immunity to disease.
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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. This attitude rubbed off on the team.
Allsion studied a protein that functions as a brake on the immune system.
Cancerous tumors are notoriously skilled at dodging our immune systems. "A comment like that makes me happier than any prize", he said. "The tumors went away". "We submitted to Nature, and it was published; we got a lot of notoriety for that". They protect our T-cells from becoming overexposed to foreign invaders and, as effect, too revved up. The therapy was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2011 and approved by the FDA as ipilimumab (trade name Yervoy), which is now used to treat skin cancers that have metastasized or that can not be removed surgically.
At news conference later Monday in Kyoto, Honjo said what makes him most delighted is when he hears from patients who have recovered from serious illnesses because of his research.
Their parallel work concerned proteins that act as brakes on the body's immune system.
Born on August 7, 1948, Allison's early interest was medicine and was inspired by his father, who was an ENT specialist.