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AACR and CRI Honor Dr. James Allison With First Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology

April 7, 2013
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — James P. Allison, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Immunology in the division of basic science research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, will receive the newly established cancer immunology award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) in honor of his innovative research in the field of cancer immunology.

Allison will receive the award at a reception on Saturday, April 6 at 7 p.m. in the Constitution Ballroom in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. He will present his lecture, “Mobilizing the Immune System for Cancer Therapy,” on Wednesday, April 10 at 10 a.m. in Ballroom A-B in the convention center.

“I’m delighted and honored to be given this award named for Lloyd Old, who is widely considered to be the father of cancer immunotherapy. I was fortunate in knowing Dr. Old as a mentor, but also as a close friend. This new award by the AACR and CRI recognizes individuals, but it’s also a gratifying recognition of the growing prominence of immune therapy and of our progress toward fulfilling Dr. Old’s goal of unleashing the immune system against cancer,” Allison said.

The first annual AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology was established in honor of the late Lloyd J. Old, M.D., who is considered the “Father of Modern Tumor Immunology.” Old’s outstanding research in the field of cancer immunology, as well as his decades of leadership in fostering the field, has had a far-reaching impact on cancer. The award is intended to recognize an active cancer immunologist who, like Old, has done outstanding and innovative research in cancer immunology that has had a far-reaching impact on the field.

“Dr. Allison is a thought leader in the field of immunology,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR. “We owe him for much of our understanding of the mechanisms regulating the immunological responses mediated by the T cells. He laid the foundation for our ability to manipulate the T-cell system for therapeutic applications against cancers, and is, therefore, greatly deserving of this honor.”

“James Allison’s work has provided a roadmap for connecting the laboratory and the clinic and moving discovery into real-world applications that can save the lives of patients,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D., chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs at CRI. “As someone on the cutting edge of cancer immunotherapy, Dr. Allison embodies the vision that Lloyd Old had for the field and the hope of one day harnessing the immune system’s power to conquer cancer.”

Allison’s early research focused on understanding how the immune system defends the body from pathogens and cancers, with particular emphasis on the role of T-cells. In this process, he uncovered the previously unknown mechanisms of the functions of T-cells. In 1982, he and his colleagues identified the T-cell antigen receptor (TCR), which recognizes foreign antigens. He also discovered that this recognition is not sufficient for the activation of naïve T-cells. Subsequently, he discovered two key molecules, CD28, which is constitutively expressed on the surface of the T-cell and is needed for its activation, and a homolog of CD28 called CTLA-4, which is induced after the activation of the T-cell, and is a major down-regulator of T-cells. Allison described how all these molecules act in concert in the process of engaging the antigen-presenting cells that carry the foreign antigens, such as cancer antigens.

Allison hypothesized that the immune system fails to recognize tumor cells since CTLA-4 down-regulates T-cell activation. Based on this theory, he created antibodies to this molecule and demonstrated the rejection of established tumors in several mouse model systems. He then developed an antibody to human CTLA-4, ipilimumab, which has been used in clinical trials in more than 4,000 patients with a variety of cancers including metastatic melanoma and prostate, renal, lung and ovarian cancers. A randomized, blinded phase III trial with metastatic melanoma resulted in the survival of 25 percent of the patients for four years. No other drug has shown a prolongation of life in similar trials for this disease. Ipilimumab was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011.

In recent years, Allison identified several other checkpoint and costimulatory molecules and he has been testing the combination of immunological therapies and targeted therapies, such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors, for more effective treatment against cancers. He will play an instrumental role in MD Anderson’s recently announced Moon Shots Program to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances that reduce cancer deaths.

Allison has received numerous awards and honors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Association of Immunologists, the Centeon Award for Innovative Breakthroughs in Immunology, the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Biology from the CRI, The Dana Foundation Award in Human Immunology Research, the Richard V. Smalley Award from the International Society for Biological Therapy of Cancer and the Roche Award for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy. He is a member of the American Association for Immunologists, the Academy of Cancer Immunology, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others.

Allison obtained his doctoral degree in biological sciences from The University of Texas in Austin and did his postdoctoral fellowship in molecular immunology at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla, Calif. He served as the chair of the immunology program at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute from 2004 to 2012.


Media Contacts:
Lauren Riley
(215) 446-7155
Brian M. Brewer
(212) 688-7515, ext. 242

About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 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 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight 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 grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information, visit Follow the AACR on Twitter: @aacr #aacr. Follow the AACR on Facebook:

About the Cancer Research Institute
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), a nonprofit established in 1953, is the global leader in cancer immunology and immunotherapy. Since its inception, CRI has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to support research conducted by more than 3,000 scientists and clinicians worldwide to understand the immune system and how it can be harnessed to conquer all cancers. This work has laid the foundation for nearly every major cancer immunotherapy breakthrough over the past half century. Guided by an international panel of the world’s leading immunologists and cancer immunologists, including three Nobel laureates and 29 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, CRI provides essential funding to support every stage of discovery, from laboratory investigation to clinical trials of the most promising cancer immunotherapies for patients. CRI also sponsors a seminal international symposium on cancer immunology each year, hosts annual scientific colloquia dedicated to overcoming challenges in immunotherapy research and development, forges collaborative partnerships between academia and industry to facilitate the development pathway for novel immunotherapeutics, and presents special recognition awards to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to cancer research, patient care and public awareness. Through its sustaining support and leadership in the field, CRI is accelerating the development of safe and effective immunotherapies that stand to revolutionize the treatment of all cancers. For more information, visit or follow CRI on Twitter @CancerResearch.

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