Through research into the biology of T cells, white blood cells that serve as guided weapons for the immune system, Allison developed an antibody that unleashes an immune response against cancer. Drugs using this immune checkpoint blockade approach are approved for treating late-stage melanoma and lung cancer (see promising kidney cancer study). Long-term studies show 20% of late-stage melanoma patients treated with ipilimumab survive for at least 10 years.
"The Lasker award highlights Jim's genius, creativity and passion," says
MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho, M.D. "Countless cancer patients have experienced renewed promise and health thanks to this groundbreaking advance."
Allison is MD Anderson's second faculty member to win a Lasker award. Emil J Freireich, M.D., was honored in 1972 for outstanding achievements in chemotherapy combination treatment and supportive care for leukemia patients.
"As a basic scientist, I was pleasantly surprised, really kind of stunned, to receive this award," Allison says. "It's important recognition of cancer immunotherapy's early success and its great potential to extend cancer survival for decades, and ultimately to cure some types of cancer."