Even before James P. Allison, PhD, made an appearance at the Fourth International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference: Translating Science Into Survival in New York City, the excitement among attendees was palpable. Earlier that day, October 1, 2018, Dr. Allison and Tasuku Honjo, MD, PhD, of Kyoto University in Japan, had been announced as recipients of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. When Dr. Allison arrived at the conference to comment on the award and express his appreciation, the mood among attendees had reached a crescendo of excitement, and he was greeted with rock-star adoration by the more than 1,400 researchers and industry leaders from 32 countries present at the conference.
Dr. Allison, Chair of the Department of Immunology, Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Research, and Executive Director of the Immunotherapy Platform at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer in Houston, was not originally scheduled to speak at the conference, which was cosponsored by the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology, and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). He had come to the conference to see his wife, Padmanee Sharma, MD, PhD, Professor of Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Professor in the Department of Immunology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, receive the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology. It was pure serendipitous happenstance that the news from the Nobel Prize committee came during the conference.