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American Association for Cancer Research-G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award to Recognize Dr. James Allison

April 3, 2014
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SAN DIEGO — James P. Allison, Ph.D., will be recognized with the 54th annual American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award at the AACR Annual Meeting 2014, to be held in San Diego, Calif., April 5-9.

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 is leader of the Stand Up To Cancer-Cancer Research Institute Dream Team: Immunologic Checkpoint Blockade and Adoptive Cell Transfer in Cancer Therapy. Additionally, he is deputy editor of Cancer Immunology Research and scientific editor of Cancer Discovery, journals of the AACR.

He will present his lecture, “Immune Checkpoint Targeting in Cancer Therapy: Dare We Think About Cures?” Monday, April 7, 5:30 p.m. PT, in Room 20 A-C in the San Diego Convention Center. He will also be invited to speak at the Eli Lilly headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind., later in 2014.

“Dr. Allison is a renowned expert in the field of cancer immunotherapy,” said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D., (h.c.), chief executive officer of the AACR. “His groundbreaking basic research on T-cell development and function laid the foundation for the development of a new class of revolutionary immunotherapies that are transforming the lives of many patients with melanoma and offering hope for patients with other forms of cancer. Dr. Allison’s career showcases how basic scientific discoveries are leading to lifesaving clinical advances, and he is greatly deserving of this honor.”

The AACR and Eli Lilly and Company established the G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award in 1961 to honor Clowes, a founding member of the AACR and research director at Eli Lilly. This honor recognizes an individual with outstanding recent accomplishments in basic cancer research.

“I’m thrilled and honored to receive the Clowes Award from AACR, and humbled to be in the company of the scientists who have preceded me,” said Allison.

Allison’s research has provided fundamental insights into T-cell development and function, including the previously unknown mechanisms of the functions of T cells. He and his colleagues identified the T-cell receptor, which recognizes foreign antigens and found that this recognition is not sufficient for the activation of naïve T cells. He then discovered two key molecules, CD28 and CTLA-4, a homolog of CD28. Although initially believed to be a costimulatory molecule, Allison showed that CTLA-4 is actually an inhibitory molecule and developed a blocking agent against CTLA-4.

He found that the blockade of CTLA-4 led to tumor rejection in mice that convinced pharmaceutical companies to pursue clinical trials targeting CTLA-4; ipilimumab, the anti-CTLA-4 agent, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March 2011 as a standard therapy for patients with metastatic melanoma after two phase III trials demonstrated significant improvement in patients. Since it targets a T-cell-specific molecule rather than a tumor-specific molecule, anti-CTLA-4 is currently being tested in clinical trials as treatment for many different types of cancers, including prostate, lung, breast, and pancreatic cancers.

Allison has received numerous awards and honors, including his induction this year as a fellow of the AACR Academy, the Canada Gairdner Foundation Award, the inaugural AACR-Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, 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 Cancer Research Institute, 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 AACR, 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 the 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.

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