KU Leuven awards joint honorary doctorate to James P. Allison and Carl H. June

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As part of its Patron Saint's Day celebrations, KU Leuven (Belgium) will award a joint honorary doctorate to immunologists James P. Allison (University of Texas) and Professor Carl H. June (University of Pennsylvania).

The future of cancer patients may be considerably brighter thanks to Professor James P. Allison and Professor Carl H. June. The two immunologists revolutionised the treatment of cancer by using the patient's immune system as a powerful weapon. June's team was the first to genetically modify T cells – the 'conductors' of the immune system – in such a way as to make them identify and attack the malignant disease in the patient with accuracy. Allison unravelled the built-in inhibitory mechanisms of T cells and developed ways to block them. This makes the immune system more active in terms of – again – identifying and attacking cancer cells. In 2013, Science called their achievements in cancer immunology the Breakthrough of the Year. Allison emphasised that their insights have to lead to results in the hospital. "It is important to not just use your knowledge for the joy of learning and knowing something," he says, "but to help people too."

The nominator of this KU Leuven honorary doctorate is Professor Peter Vandenbergh, the co-nominator is Professor Peter Carmeliet.

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