ACGT Congratulates Nobel Prize in Medicine Awardees for Work in Immunotherapy

Oct 03, 2018

ACGT congratulates Dr. James Allison and Dr. Tasuku Honjo for winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their groundbreaking work with immunotherapy. Jim Allison, chairman of the department of immunology at University of Texas, and Tasuku Honjo, professor in the department of immunology and genomic medicine at Kyoto University jointly received the award for their work with checkpoint inhibitors and unleashing the immune system’s ability to attack cancer, creating an entirely new way to fight the disease.

Dr. Allison’s work involved the study of a known protein that acts as a brake on the immune system. He discovered that flipping that off switch could enable the body’s immune system to attack tumors and used that mechanism in the development of a new form of cancer treatment that led to the first approved checkpoint immunotherapy. Today ipilimumab or yervoy is used to treat tens of thousands of patients with advanced melanoma.

Yervoy’s clinical success paved the way for the next wave of immunotherapies which target the PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint pathway. Dr. Honjo discovered a protein on immune cells that also operates as a brake, but in a different way – and now there are 5 checkpoint immunotherapies approved by the FDA for various cancers including Opdivo and Keytruda.

ACGT Research Fellow, Dr. Crystal Mackall, who recently spoke at an ACGT event at the Alexandria Real Estate center in New York, called Allison in an article in The American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC), a “role model for all of us.” Mackall stressed the importance of funding translational research and moving that research into patients with clinical trials. Mackall has led numerous cutting edge and first in-human clinical trials in her former role as Chief of the Pediatric Oncology Branch of the NCI, and now in her role as Founding Director of the Stanford Center for Cancer Cell Therapy at Stanford University. She is the recipient of the 2016 ACGT Research Fellow Award funded by Swim Across America and Wendy Walk.

In addition to supporting Dr. Mackall’s work in immunotherapy, ACGT supports numerous researchers, past and present, for their work in immunotherapy and cell and gene therapies.