The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Professor James P. Allison of The University of Texas and Professor Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.
The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine is recognizing Professor Allison for his work studying the T-cell protein CTLA-4, which acts as a brake on the immune system, and his realization that blocking the protein could get immune cells to attack tumors. This idea formed the basis for an entirely new class of cancer treatments: immune checkpoint therapy.
Working independently, Professor Honjo discovered the PD-1 protein and determined that it also acts an immune brake via a different mechanism. He determined this protein could be blocked to get the immune system to fight cancer.
Professor Allison is Chair of the Department of Immunology, Vivian L. Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology, Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Research, and Executive Director of the Immunotherapy Platform at MD Anderson Cancer Center at The University of Texas.
Professor Honjo is Distinguished Professor at the Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study and Professor in the Department of Immunology and Genomic Medicine, Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan. He is also the President of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Biomedical Research and Innovation at Kobe.
The pair were also the winners of the inaugural Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science in 2014, and they have each been recognized with many individual honors.
Outside the lab, Professor Allison is known for playing harmonica in an all oncologist/immunotherapy researcher band known as The CheckPoints.