All plenary sessions will be presented in Alumni Hall, Science Lecture Hall, 3rd Floor. Venue seating is limited due to construction. Please arrive early.

Immune Checkpoint Blockade in Cancer Therapy: Insights, Opportunities, and Prospects for Cures
11:00 a.m., Thursday, 19 October
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James P. Allison, PhD
Professor and Chair of Immunology
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

James P. Allison, PhD, is an internationally renowned immunologist best known for discovering and exploring several mechanisms behind T-cell development and activation. His research has fundamentally advanced the fields of immunology and tumor immunotherapy.

In the early 1980s, Allison was one of the first to identify the T-cell receptor—that part of a T cell that binds to antigen and initiates T-cell activation. Later, in 1992, he discovered that a molecule called CD28 was the major costimulatory molecule that fully activates naive T cells. A few years later, in 1995, he identified CTLA-4 as an immune system inhibitory checkpoint molecule that essentially puts the brakes on T cells. Allison was the first to reveal that checkpoint blockade, a treatment approach that prevents CTLA-4 from inhibiting the body’s immune response to cancer, could bolster antitumor response and tumor immunity. This work led to the development of ipilimumab, an FDA-approved drug that blocks CTLA-4 and enables the immune system to attack cancer cells. It was the first drug to improve survival rates of metastatic melanoma patients.

Allison received both his bachelor’s degree and his biological sciences PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, followed by a molecular immunology postdoctoral fellowship at the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation. In 2015, he received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. His numerous other honors include the Medal of Honor from the American Cancer Society, the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, and the Canada Gairdner International Award. In 2017, he received the Balzan Prize for the development of immunological approaches to cancer. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.