Public Release: 

Renowned cancer immunologist James Allison recognized with Pezcoller-AACR International Award

American Association for Cancer Research

PHILADELPHIA -- The 2015 Pezcoller Foundation-American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) International Award for Cancer Research will be presented to James P. Allison, PhD, at the AACR Annual Meeting 2015, to be held in Philadelphia, April 18-22.

Allison is being acknowledged for his groundbreaking discovery that blocking cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) signaling improves antitumor immune responses, as well as for his role in the development of the CTLA-4 inhibitor ipilimumab (Yervoy), which was the first of a new class of cancer immunotherapeutics called immune checkpoint inhibitors. Ipilimumab, which was approved as a treatment for metastatic melanoma by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011, was the first therapeutic to improve survival rates among patients with this deadly form of cancer.

Allison is chair of the Department of Immunology, executive director of the Immunology Platform, associate director of the Center for Cancer Immunology Research, deputy director of the David H. Koch Center for Applied Research in Genitourinary Cancer, and the Lilian H. Smith distinguished chair of immunology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. He is a fellow of the AACR Academy and a member of the AACR board of directors. He is also deputy editor of Cancer Immunology Research and scientific editor of Cancer Discovery.

The Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award, now in its 18th year, recognizes an individual scientist of international renown who has made a major scientific discovery in basic or translational cancer research. Allison will give his lecture, "Immune Checkpoint Blockade in Cancer Therapy: New Insights, Opportunities and Prospects for a Cure," Sunday, April 19, 4:30 p.m. ET, in Hall A of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Allison's research into the molecular mechanisms of activation of the T-cell receptor and the downstream signal transduction events that affect immune function led to his finding that CTLA-4, an immune system inhibitory checkpoint molecule expressed by T cells. His lab then developed an antibody against CTLA-4, which they went on to show inhibited tumor growth in mice. This basic research discovery led to the development of ipilimumab. By specifically blocking the inhibitor function of CTLA-4, ipilimumab allows T cells to attack and eliminate cancer cells. Allison called this mechanism of action "immune checkpoint blockade," and believes that by combining targeted therapies with immunotherapeutics that mediate checkpoint blockade, one can turn cancer's genomic instability, which it uses to build resistance to drugs, against it. Allison is currently investigating additional mechanisms involved in T-cell activation and signaling pathways.

"Dr. Allison is a world-renowned immunologist, and we are delighted to recognize his extraordinary scientific accomplishments and leadership in the field of cancer immunotherapy," said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD, (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. "His dedicated efforts established the paradigm of immune checkpoint inhibitors, which is transforming the lives of many patients with melanoma and offering hope for patients with other forms of cancer. Dr. Allison's work epitomizes how basic laboratory research can be translated to a lifesaving cancer treatment, and he is greatly deserving of this accolade."

"I am deeply honored and humbled to receive the Pezcoller Award," said Allison. "This award by the AACR recognizes the efforts of my research team over the years to develop strategies to unleash the immune system to treat cancer, as well as the many other investigators, clinicians, and patients whose efforts and courage made immunotherapy of cancer a reality that is benefiting cancer patients."

Allison's many other recent accolades include the inaugural AACR-Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology, the AACR-G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award, the Canada Gairdner Foundation award, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research from the National Foundation for Cancer Research, the first Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Association of Immunologists, the Centeon Award for Innovative Breakthroughs in Immunology, and the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Biology from the Cancer Research Institute. He has been elected to numerous societies, including the National Academy of Sciences, and is a fellow of the Institute of Medicine, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and the American Academy of Microbiology.

In addition Allison is leader of the Stand Up To Cancer-Cancer Research Institute Dream Team: Immunologic Checkpoint Blockade and Adoptive Cell Transfer in Cancer Therapy. He served as chair of the immunology program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York before joining MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2012.


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About the American Association for Cancer Research

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 35,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in 101 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 25 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with over 18,500 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients, and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of team science and individual investigator grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and other policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit

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