Allison, 70, won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery that blocking proteins on immune cells allows those cells to fight cancer. His work paved the way for the development of immune checkpoint blockade, an approach to treating cancer with the body’s immune system. Allison shared the prize with Tasuku Honjo of Japan, who was involved in similar research. As a result of their decades of work, immunotherapy has become one of the key treatments for some cancers.
His son gave him the news
Allison learned of his award while attending an immunotherapy conference in New York City, where his wife, who is an oncologist and immunologist, was getting an award. They were up early but did not receive a call from Sweden, so Allison decided it was not his year. Then his son, who had watched the press conference and lives in New York, called to tell him he had won but the Nobel committee had been unable to reach him.
Fascinated by the immune system
A professor and chairman of the department of immunology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Allison has spent his entire career studying T cells, which are a type of white blood cell that searches the body for abnormalities to destroy.
“I wanted to know how they worked. We knew they went all over the body looking for something to fight,” he said.” He first learned about T cells while a student at the University of Texas at Austin, shortly after they had been discovered. biochemistry major, Allison became fascinated by the body’s immune system, took a course in immunology, and was hooked. During his research, Allison learned that activating a T cell was very complicated.