American, Japanese cancer researchers share Nobel Prize in medicine

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded jointly to James P Allison and Tasuku Honjo for discovery of a cancer therapy

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded jointly to James P Allison and Tasuku Honjo for discovery of a cancer therapy

Allison, a professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre, studied a protein that functions as a brake on the immune system and realized the potential for unleashing immune cells to attack tumours if the brake could be released.

TWO immunologists, James Allison of the United States and Tasuku Honjo of Japan, won the 2018 Nobel Medicine Prize for research into how the body's natural defences can fight cancer, the jury said on Monday.

"A driving motivation for scientists is simply to push the frontier of knowledge".

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Dr. Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY, said: "An untold number of lives. have been saved by the science that they pioneered". He is married to physician Padmanee Sharma, a scientific collaborator and a specialist in renal, bladder and prostate cancers at M.D. Anderson.

"Everybody wanted to do chemotherapy and radiation", said Nadia Guerra, head of a cancer laboratory at Imperial College London.

The prize recognizes Allison's basic science discoveries on the biology of T cells, the adaptive immune system's soldiers, and his invention of immune checkpoint blockade to treat cancer.

Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy targets proteins made by some immune system cells, as well as some cancer cells.

The US Food and Drug Administration has already approved a number of immunotherapy treatments, including some targeting PD-1. It was a breakthrough drug that turned an invariably fatal cancer that killed patients within months into one that could be cured, albeit in only a minority (about 20 percent) of patients.

Allison discovered the first of these built-in brakes, known as checkpoints, in the course of his immunology research in the early 1990s.

Lanier adds he has nominated Allison for the Nobel several times, but that it probably took the committee some time to figure out who deserved to receive it alongside him. "Immune checkpoint therapy" has revolutionised cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed".

A previous version of this story identified Allison as affiliated with University of Texas at Austin.

For decades researchers had been trying to figure out effective ways to use the body's own immune system against cancer. "Everyone thought it was a lie that cancer could be treated by immunity", Minato said.

Anti-PD-1 antibodies are more effective than those directed against CTLA-4 and have led to the creation of effective treatments for lung, kidney, skin and lymphoma cancer. Perlmann said the Nobel Committee chose to highlight Allison and Honjo to reflect the basic science that created a new "pillar" of cancer therapy. "Try to get a detailed understanding of what goes on with patients both when we succeed, and perhaps more importantly, when we fail". "It was frightening. My friends who knew that field said You better watch out because these people hate immunotherapy". But for poorly understood reasons, it was hard to rev them up against cancer. Allison also is deputy director of the David H Koch Center for Applied Research of Genitourinary Cancers at MD Anderson and holds the Vivian L. Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology.

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