Published: Mon, October 01, 2018
Health Care | By Terrence Lopez

US, Japan duo win Nobel Medicine Prize for cancer therapy

US, Japan duo win Nobel Medicine Prize for cancer therapy

In 1982, while working at The University of Texas System Cancer Center, Allison made a breakthrough discovery - identifying the T-cell antigen receptor, which allows T cells to recognize an unusual protein on the surface of another cell.

By releasing the brake via an antibody that binds to and thus disables CTLA-4, he discovered in the 1990s, it was possible to unleash immune cells to swarm and kill tumors. "He developed this concept into a new approach for treating patients", a statement said.

One of Carter's treatments was a drug that blocked the immune-cell "brake" studied by Honjo.

The pair were honoured "for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation", the Nobel Assembly said.

"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. To take CTLA-4 as an example, Allison's work was part of a sequence of advances starting before Ron Schwartz and Marc Jenkins' work on costimulatory signals and running beyond Nils Lonberg's involvement in the development of the ipilimumab molecule. The discovery led to effective treatments. Since then, the agency has approved at least four other PD-1 inhibitors for the treatment of nine types of cancer.

"It's like your body uses your own army to fight cancer", she said.

He was recruited back to MD Anderson in November 2012 to lead the Immunology Department and to establish an immunotherapy research platform for MD Anderson's Moon Shots Program. The field hums with stories of lives extended: "the woman with a grapefruit-size tumor in her lung from melanoma, alive and healthy 13 years later; the 6-year-old near death from leukemia, now in third grade and in remission; the man with metastatic kidney cancer whose disease continued fading away even after treatment stopped". This led him to wonder whether the immune system could provide a means to combat cancer and strengthened his belief that it could provide a much more effective and less toxic form of therapy than radiation and chemotherapy, the devastating effects of which he had witnessed in both his mother and uncle. It was his perseverance, as well as his science, that brought cancer immune therapy to the public, Lanier says.

"We need these drugs to work for more people", Allison said.

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

For the first time since 1949, the Swedish Academy has postponed the announcement of the 2018 Nobel Literature Prize until next year, amid a #MeToo scandal and bitter internal dispute that has prevented it from functioning properly.

No Nobel Literature Prize is being given this year because the Swedish Academy, the body that choses the literature victor, has been in turmoil after sex abuse and financial scandal allegations.

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