The duo will share the Nobel prize sum of nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01 million or 870,000 euros). Lower left: Antibodies (green) against CTLA-4 block the function of the brake leading to activation of T cells and attack on cancer cells.Upper right: PD-1 is another T-cell brake that inhibits T-cell activation.
"I had lung cancer", the member was quoted as saying, "and thought I was playing my last round of golf".
Allison has been recognised for his breakthrough research in cancer immunology with numerous awards.
"I'm honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition", Allison said in a statement released by the university's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he is a professor.
"Targeted therapies don't cure cancer, but immunotherapy is curative, which is why many consider it the biggest advance in a generation", Allison said in a 2015 interview.
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).
Today, immunotherapies based on Allison and Honjo's research work especially well for fighting advanced and aggressive tumors.
In 1995, he was one of two scientists to identify the ligand CTLA-4 as an inhibitory receptor on T-cells, which are a type of white blood cell that play a vital role in the body's natural immunity to disease.
"With another postdoc I did some side experiments on how tumors are recognized by the immune system", Allison told the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2016.
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. "A comment like that makes me happier than any prize", he said. Other scientists worked on using CTLA-4 as a way to treat autoimmune disorders.
Their parallel work concerned proteins that act as brakes on the body's immune system. Honojo's lab discovered when they injected antibodies against PD-1 that cancer cells could no longer dupe the T-cells. The peace prize will be announced on Friday, and the economics prize will wrap up the Nobel season on Monday, October 8.
The Nobel Prize for physics is set to be announced on Tuesday.
Lanier adds he has nominated Allison for the Nobel several times, but that it probably took the committee some time to figure out who deserved to receive it alongside him.
The academy said that this year's Nobel Prize constitutes a landmark in the fight against cancer.