Giants of Cancer Care® Program Inductees

Scientific Advances

James P. Allison, PhD

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

  • James P. Allison, PhD, pioneered checkpoint blockade strategy for cancer immunotherapy
  • Along with Tasuku Honjo, MD, PhD, Dr Allison won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2018 “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.”
  • He has a longstanding interest in mechanisms of T cell development and activation, and the development of novel strategies for tumor immunotherapy. He was the first person to isolate the T-cell antigen and find the "brake" (i.e., cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 [CTLA-4]) that stops T-cell proliferation.
  • His lab resolved a major controversy by demonstrating that CTLA-4 inhibits T-cell activation by opposing CD28-mediated costimulation and that blockade of CTLA-4 could enhance T cell responses, leading to tumor rejection in animal models. This finding and a great deal of persistence paved the way for the field of immune checkpoint blockade therapy for cancer.
  • Further work in his lab led to the development of ipilimumab (Yervoy), an antibody to human CTLA-4 and the first immune checkpoint blockade therapy approved by the FDA.
  • Dr Allison’s research with Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD, the 2014 Giants of Cancer Care® award winner for Myeloma, in the 1990s at the University of California, Berkeley, led to the clinical development of ipilimumab (Yervoy), which was approved in 2011 by the FDA for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.
  • He plays instrumental role in MD Anderson’s recently announced Moon Shots Program to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances that reduce cancer deaths.
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