"A driving motivation for scientists is simply to push the frontier of knowledge".
He has spent a large part of his career studying devising strategies to fight cancer by studying the regulation of T cell responses in the human body.
The discoveries by Allison and Honjo, 76, "absolutely paved the way for a new approach to cancer treatment", Dr. Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics service at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY, told The Associated Press.
The seminal discoveries represent a "paradigmatic shift in the fight against cancer", the Nobel committee said, since they do so not by targeting the tumor cells but by tweaking the immune system.
The work of Allison and Honjo has given us hope of delivering mundane miracles to everyone with cancer, and turning cancer patients back into people. Ipilimumab was approved for late-stage melanoma by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011. What we have to look forward to is that, unlike the other three, immunotherapy can be used in combination with the other three.
"You should learn something from every patient", Allison said. Removing these proteins from the equation allows immune cells called T-cells to attack the cancer.
"We need these drugs to work for more people".
This data paved the way for utilizing PD-1 as a target in the treatment of patients.Clinical development ensued, and in 2012 a key study demonstrated clear efficacy in the treatment of patients with different types of cancer.
Allison and Honjo "established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy", according to a press release from the Nobel Assembly.
He said the discoveries by Allison, 70, and Honjo, 76, "absolutely paved the way for a new approach to cancer treatment".
The two scientists will share the 9 million Swedish kronor ($1.01 million) that comes with the prize.
That research has led to a treatment known as "immune checkpoint blockade", and Allison says he's been able to meet cancer survivors who are living proof of its power. So far, as I've written, such therapies have led to spectacular and unprecedented remissions in a subset of patients with certain types of advanced cancer, but have fallen far short of that goal in most patients. Before protein inhibitors were invented cancer treatments were restricted to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
"The goal is to neutralise these molecules, among them CTLA-4 and PD-1, and these are what the recipients of the Nobel prize have been working on", said Pierre Golstein, emeritus professor at the Marseille-Luminy Immunology Centre.
Allison said more scientific work is needed to learn to combine immunotherapy with conventional treatment to stifle tumor growth.
Allison heard the news of his Nobel prize win while at an immunology conference in New York City, reports Ledford and Else.