The discovery led to effective treatments, specifically some called immune checkpoint blockade therapies. Ipilimumab, which has the brand name Yervoy, was approved for late-stage melanoma by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2011 and became the first to extend the survival of patients with late-stage melanoma. Lanier says he often spent Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with Allison in the mid-1990s, and remembers Allison talking about the initial experiments that showed him CTLA-4 could fight cancer in mice. Immunotherapy is quickly becoming one of the foremost weapons in cancer treatment, alongside radiation and chemotherapy.
"I don't know if I could have accomplished this work anywhere else than Berkeley", Allison said in the press release.
"A driving motivation for scientists is simply to push the frontier of knowledge".
According to the Nobel Assembly, he realised the potential of releasing the brake and unleashing our immune cells to attack tumours. The platform works with more than 100 immunotherapy clinical trials at MD Anderson addressing a variety of cancers.
One famous recipient of the new treatment is former United States president Jimmy Carter. The therapy is created to remove this protein "brake" and allow the immune system to more quickly get to work fighting the cancer. Both scientists have worked on inhibiting these brakes, so that the immune system continues to fight and is capable of fighting against cancer.
Meanwhile, Honjo, who is now a professor at Kyoto University in Japan, discovered a similar immune system-braking protein.
"It's like your body uses your own army to fight cancer", she said.
"I had lung cancer", the member was quoted as saying, "and thought I was playing my last round of golf". That was a blissful moment.
'I think this is just the tip of the iceberg - many more medicines like this are on the horizon, ' he said.
While there remains a lot to be done in finding proven and effective treatments for cancer, two pioneers of science have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for similar, but revolutionary, treatment methods. Allison's team did the first experiments at the end of 1994, and the results were "spectacular", the Nobel organization said.
"When I'm thanked by patients who recover, I truly feel the significance of our research", Honjo said during a news conference at the Japanese university, reports Grady for The New York Times. The drugs that have been developed from their discoveries are known as checkpoint inhibitors. "They are living proof of the power of basic science", he said in a statement.
In the past decade, immunotherapies that worked to inhibit these brakes have been trialed in patients with advanced melanoma, while others are now being trialed in lung and prostate cancers.