CHARLES GRAEBER—Allison didn’t do it all, and he didn’t do it alone. But there’s little doubt that the now 70-year-old scientist’s work tipped the balance in a 100-year scientific debate. Allison’s work cracked open the door; subsequent breakthroughs have kicked it wide. The result is a fundamental course correction in the direction of cancer research and treatment and a groundswell of scientific talent and R&D dollars being funneled into a formerly discredited field of pursuit.
The war on cancer is not over; we have not achieved a full and total cure, and so far the handful of cancer immunotherapy drugs available have demonstrated robust and durable results in a minority of patients. But we have undeniably turned a corner in our understanding of the disease—what many scientists believe to be a “penicillin moment” in our quest for the cure.