Health Care

Scientists behind cancer immunotherapies win Nobel Prize in medicine

Scientists behind cancer immunotherapies win Nobel Prize in medicine”

The Nobel committee on Monday announced that the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to a US-Japanese pair for their landmark work in cancer research. Allison won for his work in launching an effective new way to attack cancer by treating the immune system rather than the tumor, according to a release.

In 1992, Japanese scientist, Tasuku Honjo from Kyoto University, separately discovered another protein on immune cells called PD-1 and revealed that it also operates as a brake, but with a different mechanism of action to CTLA-4.

The 70-year-old Allison's groundbreaking research centered on T-cells and the ability to adapt their disease fighting tendencies to target cancer cells in the body.

One of Carter's treatments was a drug that blocked the immune-cell "brake" studied by Honjo. Several Academy members resigned after officials permitted Frostenson, a poet, to remain in her position.

In 2014, the FDA approved the drugs Keytruda and Opdivo, which inhibit another checkpoint molecule, PD-1, for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.

Normally, key immune system soldiers called T cells seek out and attack invaders.

"I've been doing this sort of stuff for years, and I'd never seen anything like that", Allison said.

Honjo, who is now 76, told a news conference in Tokyo he was honored to get the Nobel, but that his work was not yet done.

Dr. Otis W. Brawley, a close friend of Allison's, said the Nobel committee usually waits about ten years to make sure a scientific discovery "sticks as being really important". Before protein inhibitors were invented cancer treatments were restricted to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Treatment, often referred to as immune checkpoint therapy has fundamentally changed the outcome for certain groups of patients with advanced cancer.

While in theory it should work for most forms of cancer, it's most effective on those with the highest numbers of mutations such as melanomas, lung cancer and smoking, he added.

Prior to the discoveries made by this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology winners, progress into clinical development of new cancer treatments was slow.

Many of Allison's patients are alive and cancer free because of his approach. Honjo is also well known for his discovery of activation-induced cytidine deaminase that is essential for class switch recombination and somatic hypermutation. James P. Allison of MD Anderson Cancer Center at The University of Texas in this picture obtained from MD Anderson Cancer Center (R) and Kyoto University Professor Tasuku Honjo in Kyoto, in this photo taken by Kyodo.

Instead, it is "going to be part of therapy that potentially all cancer patients will receive in five years", he told a press conference in NY.

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