According to his website, Honjo discovered a key protein - Programmed Cell Death Protein 1 - in controlling whether cells live or die, a central process in determining whether cells become cancerous and grow into tumors or behave normally.
Allison's and Honjo's work focused on proteins that act as brakes on the immune system - preventing the body's main immune cells, known as T-cells, from attacking tumors effectively.
"We are thrilled to see Jim's work recognized by the Nobel Committee", said Russell Vance, the current director of the Cancer Research Laboratory and a UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded in Oslo on Friday, while the announcement of the economics prize will cap off this year's Nobel season on October 8. Allison then spent more than 15 years convincing other scientists and drug companies that his approach could work. Lower left: Antibodies (green) against CTLA-4 block the function of the brake leading to activation of T cells and attack on cancer cells.Upper right: PD-1 is another T-cell brake that inhibits T-cell activation.
After his bachelor's in microbiology and his doctorate in biological sciences from the University of Texas, Allison went to Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation near San Diego, for his postdoctoral fellowship.
Writing on his cancer centre's website, Allison said he was "honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition".
Allison, whose mother died of lymphoma, built on that research over the next 40 years, mostly in California and in Texas, where he is now chair of immunology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. He announced about a year later that he no longer needed treatment.
"Targeted therapies don't cure cancer, but immunotherapy is curative, which is why many consider it the biggest advance in a generation", Allison said in a 2015 interview.
"I think this is just the tip of the iceberg - many more medicines like this are on the horizon", he said. Allison, initially driven only by curiosity about immune cells, had a insane thought: Maybe CTLA-4 can be exploited to fight cancer. "Until the seminal discoveries by the two laureates, progress into clinical development was modest", the Nobel jury said. "Doing basic science can have major results in human health care", he says.
"I want to continue my research... so that this immune therapy will save more cancer patients than ever", he told reporters at the University of Kyoto where he is based.
Arnault, 72, is married to a member of the Swedish Academy which selects the Nobel Literature Prize victor, and his cultural club Forum received generous funding from the Academy.