Health Care

American, Japanese cancer researchers share Nobel Prize in medicine

American, Japanese cancer researchers share Nobel Prize in medicine”

Allison and Tasuku Honjo were jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in medicine for their work on cancer therapy, the Nobel Committee announced in Stockholm on Monday.

The 9 million-kronor ($1.01 million) prize was announced Monday by the Nobel Assembly of Sweden's Karolinska Institute. "The discovery made by the two Medicine Laureates takes advantage of the immune system's ability to attack cancer cells by releasing the brakes on immune cells".

James P Allison, who is Professor and Chair of the Department of Immunology at MD Anderson Cancer Centre at the University of Texas, studied a known protein, CTLA-4, that functions as a brake on the immune system's killer T-cells. Meanwhile, Honjo separately discovered a second protein on immune cells that also acted as a brake but with a different mechanism.

Dr. James P. Allison, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, poses for a photo in NY in 2015.

The anti-PD-1 "checkpoint inhibitors" have proved even more effective than anti-CTLA-4 treatment, giving hope to patients with lung cancer, renal cancer, lymphoma, and melanoma, among others.

Allison's work, much of it done at the University of California-Berkley, changed that by proving the immune system could identify tumor cells and act against them.

"For more than 100 years, scientists attempted to engage the immune system in the fight against cancer".

"I didn't set out to study cancer, but to understand the biology of T cells, these incredible cells that travel our bodies and work to protect us". "Until the seminal discoveries by the two laureates, progress into clinical development was modest", the Nobel jury said.

Antibodies against PD-1 have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as an investigational new drug for the treatment of cancer.

Therapy developed from Honjo's work led to long-term remission in patients with metastatic cancer that had been considered essentially untreatable, the Nobel Assembly said.

For an in-depth listen about the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, look for the Scientific American Science Talk podcast later today. The victor of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday.

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