April 18, 2019

Nobel Prize in medicine awarded to two researchers for key cancer discovery

01 October 2018, 04:41 | Randall Craig

Nobel Prize in medicine awarded to two researchers for key cancer discovery

Nobel Prize in medicine awarded to two researchers for key cancer discovery

The 2018 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology has been jointly awarded to United States and Japanese immunologists James P Allison and Tasuku Honjo.

Allison will share the prize with Japan's Tasuku Honjo for work that "takes advantage of the immune system's ability to attack cancer cells by releasing the brakes on immune cells", the Karolinksa Institute in Sweden said in making the decision.

The two scientists have been awarded the prize for their discovery that the body's immune system can be harnessed to attack cancer cells.

American Allison studied a protein that functions as a brake on the immune system.

Allison, 70, "realised the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumours", the Nobel jury said during Monday's prize announcement in Stockholm.

He then developed this concept into a new approach for treating patients. Called PD-1, this protein, he found, functions as a T-cell brake but via a different mechanism than CTLA-4 uses.

"The seminal discoveries by the two Laureates constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer", the institute said.

"I would like to keep on doing my that this immune treatment could save more cancer patients", he said.

Mr Allison, a professor at the University of Texas, and Mr Honjo, a professor at Kyoto University, in 2014 won the Tang Prize, touted as Asia's version of the Nobels, for their research.

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.

Charles Swanton, chief clinician at the charity Cancer Research UK, said the scientists' work had revolutionised cancer and immunotherapy.

His 1994 experiment was spectacularly successful, with mice with cancer cured by treatment with the antibodies that inhibit the brake and unlock antitumor T-cell activity.

"Until the discoveries made by the 2018 Medicine Laureates, progress into clinical development was modest". It was because of a sexual misconduct scandal that led to the decision was the Nobel assembly.

Awards in physics, chemistry, peace and economics will follow.

The academy hopes to award both the 2018 prize and the 2019 literature prize next year.

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