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Raising the Tail: Jim Allison's Pioneering Cancer Treatment

Raising the Tail: Jim Allison's Pioneering Cancer Treatment

This excerpt is from an article by Jenny Blair, published May 2, 2014 in The Alcalde:

b2ap3_thumbnail_allison_jim-alcalde.jpgIn 2004, two weeks before her wedding day, 22-year-old Sharon Belvin was diagnosed with advanced melanoma. The cancer had spread through her lungs, and after five months of chemotherapy, doctors found it had invaded her brain. Her odds weren’t good: at the time, 10-year survival rates for stage IV melanoma hovered around 10-15 percent.

But a cancer-free Belvin appeared on video at the Breakthrough Prize ceremony in Mountain View, Calif., last December, and she credits Jim Allison, BA ’69, PhD ’73, with saving her life. Belvin’s tumors vanished after she received anti-CTLA-4, a then-experimental drug now known as ipilimumab.

The drug and its promising new cancer strategy, called immune checkpoint therapy, were pioneered by Allison, an MD Anderson Cancer Center immunology professor. After years of basic-science research into the immune T-cell, Allison suspected that what he’d discovered might lead to a new approach to fighting cancer—one that treats the immune system rather than the cancer. He was right. Ipilimumab has put many patients like Belvin into a lasting remission. It was for that achievement that Allison received the $3 million Breakthrough Prize, an elite honor for researchers whose work extends human life.

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Saturday, 04 February 2023

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