The last few years, the american researcher James Allison become completely inundated with fine scientific prizes. The Breakthrough Prize, lasker award and the very first Sjöbergpriset.

Now he can also call himself Laureate.

” It feels very different compared to all the other prices, this is the great price. It is probably something that all researchers have in the back of my head, but nothing that they are actively working. Then you would be disappointed, ” says James Allison.

been the favorite in förhandsspekulationerna in several years the news came that the nobel assembly at Karolinska institutet has decided to award him the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine, together with the japanese Tasuku Honjo. Since then it has been an intense time.

” I was at a immunterapikonferens in New York that my wife had got a price and would hold a lecture. There were three thousand people there who applauded, wanted to take selfies and shake my hand. I could almost not walk away, I felt like Mick Jagger, ” he says.

Surgery, radiation, and traditional cancer drugs like chemotherapy has long been a part of the doctors ‘ tools against cancer. But the methods work worse for some forms of cancer. Both James Allison and Tasuku Honjo were interested in the proteins on the surface of T-cells, a type of white blood cells, which acts as the brakes of the immune system and prevent it from becoming overactive, as in autoimmune diseases. But the brake also prevents T-cells from attacking the cancer cells.

Tasuku Honjo and James Allison share this year’s nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Photo: Nicklas Thegerström

focused on the protein CTLA-4, Tasuku Honjo on the protein PD-1. Both developed antibodies which unloaded on the brakes. But when they was their way, and published his first studies were not interested.

” We were able to show that the tumors disappeared in mice. But no pharmaceutical company was interested in testing the treatment on patients, it took three years before we succeeded. It was frustrating, ” says James Allison.

today, immunotherapy has become an intensive field of research. There are closer to 2,000 clinical studies against various forms of cancer, according to James Allison. It has proved to be even more effective to target the PD-1 than the CTLA-4 and therefore has become the type of immunotherapy that are used most of the day. But a lot of research is about combining these treatment principles, sometimes also with traditional cancer drugs.

– But we need to understand why it does not work for all cancers and for all patients. By learning the mechanisms, we can achieve the goal of sustainable response of so many patients and so many cancers as possible, ” says James Allison.

immunotherapy, for example, malignant melanoma and lung cancer. This is where many patients the tumors disappeared completely. But if the patients are cured, nobody knows. So long follow-up are not yet available.

” But we have seen that, if the patients do not die during the first four years so they can probably live at least ten years, maybe longer. But we do not have all the data yet. Kombinationsbehandlingarna can give a future to a majority of the patients who died within a year, ” he says.

James Allisons family has been affected by cancer. He feels gratitude when he meets patients who are alive today thanks to his research.

– part I have learned to know well. It was a 22-year-old woman with diffused malignant melanoma, no one thought she would live for a year. Now, it has been more than twelve years and she has two children. It is when you meet patients that you understand what överlevnadsprocenten in the studies really means, ” he says.