Their work constitutes a "landmark in our fight against cancer", said the Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institute, which awarded the prize.
Dr. Allison is chair of Immunology and executive director of MD Anderson's Moon Shots Program's Immunotherapy platform. Allison studied a protein that functions as a brake on the immune system and found the means to release its potential, while Honjo similarly found a protein operating as a brake but with a different mechanism of action, the Nobel committee in Stockholm said on Monday. Several such drugs have been approved for use in the U.S.
"Because this approach targets immune cells rather than specific tumors, it holds great promise to thwart diverse cancers", the Lasker Foundation wrote when it awarded Allison its 2015 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. 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. Allison's success with CTLA-4 in cancer persuaded Honjo to consider his molecule in cancer as well-and he found PD-1 therapy was even safer and more effective against a number of cancers, including lung cancer, which kills about 150,000 Americans a year.
Research by Allison's team has meanwhile led to the development of a monoclonal antibody drug, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011 for the treatment of melanoma. "And I thought, 'If we could do that in people, this is going to be unbelievable'".More news: Fed hikes key rate for third time this year
"I'm honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition", Allison said in a statement released by the university's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he is a professor.
At news conference later Monday in Kyoto, Honjo said what makes him most delighted is when he hears from patients who have recovered from serious illnesses because of his research.
"When Dana showed me the results, I was really surprised", Allison said.
Today, immunotherapies based on Allison and Honjo's research work especially well for fighting advanced and aggressive tumors.More news: Arsenal's Petr Cech injured during defeat of Watford
"In some patients, this therapy is remarkably effective", Jeremy Berg, editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals, told The Associated Press.
Other cancer treatments have previously been awarded Nobel prizes, including methods for hormone treatment for prostate cancer in 1966, chemotherapy in 1988 and bone marrow transplantation for leukaemia in 1990.
Medicine is the first of the Nobel Prizes to be handed out each year. The victor of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday and the economics laureate will be announced next Monday.
The Nobel Prize for physics is set to be announced on Tuesday. The academy hopes to award both the 2018 prize and the 2019 literature prize next year.More news: Blasey Ford says '100 percent' certain Kavanaugh assaulted her