Nobel Prize-winning researcher: The future of immunotherapy for cancer treatment

For a long time, immunotherapy was considered nonsense by many people in mainstream cancer medicine. It had been tried for years, starting with a German scientist named Paul Ehrlich in 1906. There’d been a lot of other attempts since then, particularly in the 1960s and 1980s, but none of them really worked. Unfortunately, there was a lot of hype around those efforts each time. So, when they didn’t pan out, the field as a whole got a bad reputation. And as I started looking into immunotherapy research in the early 1990s, people kept telling me, “Don’t do this.” But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of ipilimumab, the drug I developed, in 2011 and the discovery of other checkpoint inhibitors by other researchers have proven that immunotherapy is a legitimate cancer treatment option. I think the Nobel Prize was the final seal of approval that this is real, that it’s not just some snake oil. And I believe that immunotherapy is going to continue to grow. Humanizing my immunotherapy research Being the first person on the planet to know something important is really cool. But so is meeting the people your discovery has helped. I don’t know the exact number of people who’ve benefitted from ipilimumab, but I do know there are a lot of folks alive today who wouldn’t be otherwise. The first time I met a patient who’d taken ipilimumab was in 2006. I’d been involved in clinical trials for it by then for several years. One day, I was in my office, and an oncologist I worked with very closely called and said, “Hey. Can...