James P. Allison, PhD
Tony Hunter, PhD
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (RSAS) has decided to award the inaugural Sjöberg Prize 2017 to James P. Allison, PhD, Professor and Vivian L. Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Tony Hunter, PhD, American Cancer Society Professor, Renato Dulbecco Chair, and Deputy Director at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Drs. Allison and Hunter have been awarded the Prize for “groundbreaking studies of cellular processes that have led to the development of new and effective cancer drugs.”
About the Sjöberg Prize
The Sjöberg Prize is an annual international prize in cancer research, given for the first time in 2017. The Prize is financed by the Sjöberg Foundation, founded in 2016 by the late businessman Bengt Sjöberg with a donation of 2 billion Swedish krona. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is responsible for selecting the Laureates who receive the Prize.
The award ceremony will take place during the Annual Meeting of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on March 31, 2017, in the presence of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen of Sweden. The laureates will hold open lectures at Karolinska Institutet on March 30.
“We are delighted that we can encourage future cancer research by awarding this Prize to two…outstanding researchers. Their discoveries have led to improved cancer treatment for thousands of people, and we are proud to be awarding them the first Sjöberg Prize. Their high-quality research represents the Sjöberg Foundation’s idea and purpose of inspiring and aiding new efforts in the work to fight cancer,” said the donor’s brother, Ingemar Sjöberg, Chairman of the Sjöberg Foundation.
The Prize is equivalent to $1 million USD and is shared equally between the Laureates. It is divided into a personal award of $100,000 and a grant for future research of $900,000.
Research by Laureates
Dr. Allison investigated how T cells are activated and how a specific “brake” signal could be prevented. He realized that when this brake is removed, the immune system can use its full potential to attack tumor cells. These discoveries have resulted in the emergence of immune checkpoint inhibitors, which have had a large impact on the treatment of melanoma and other malignancies.
“I am honored and humbled to be a recipient of the first Sjöberg Prize and feel that it acknowledges the effort of all those who worked to translate fundamental understanding of immunological processes into treatment strategies that are saving the lives of many cancer patients,” said Dr. Allison.
Dr. Hunter studied how normal cells become tumor cells, demonstrating that a special process was necessary: tyrosine phosphorylation. His discovery led to the development of tyrosine kinase inhibitors, which have revolutionized the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia and are also of great benefit in other types of cancer.
“I am deeply honored to have been recognized by the inaugural Sjöberg Prize. It is very gratifying that our work on a simple chicken tumor virus has ultimately led to new and effective therapies for human cancer, with 26 tyrosine kinase inhibitor drugs currently approved for clinical use,” said Dr. Hunter. ■