Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Nobel Medicine Prize awarded to duo for cancer research

Nobel Laureates Nobel Prize for Medicine jointly awarded to two cancer researchers from US and Japan
Becky Salazar | 04 October, 2018, 14:20

Both Allison and Honjo discovered how to lift the molecular "brakes" that keep our immune cells from attacking ourselves - specifically for the cancer cells that spawn inside of us.

The scientists' work in the 1990s has since swiftly led to new and dramatically improved therapies for cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer, which had previously been extremely hard to treat.

The American Cancer Society's chief medical officer says he and colleagues gave a celebratory toast to Allison at a party on Friday - days before the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Medicine - because they agreed this could be his year. Such cancers can be hard to treat, and therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation can do damage as well as good. In particular, drugs targeting PD-1 blockade have proved a big commercial hit, offering new options for patients with melanoma, lung and bladder cancers.

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. He realized that by blocking that brake the immune cells could be unleashed on tumor cells, and he began developing therapies based on that principle.

Allison studied a protein on T cells called CTLA-4 that acts as a brake on the immune system.

Allison's research led to development of the drug Yervoy, approved in 2011 after studies showed it extended the survival of some patients with late-stage melanoma. The prize in economics will be announced next Monday.

Two researchers from the United States and Japan won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for discoveries that help the body marshal its cellular troops to attack invading cancers. Proteins on the surface of a T cell tell the immune system to kick into overdrive and ready it to destroy foreign threats - but others act as blocks, telling the immune system to slow down.

Jedd Wolchok is the chief of melanoma and immunotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY. The "therapy has now revolutionized cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed". "I got into them because I wanted to know how T cells work", Allison said.

The prize for physiology or medicine is first Nobel Prize awarded each year.

'I think this is just the tip of the iceberg - many more medicines like this are on the horizon, ' he said. Dr. Allison is chairman of the department of immunology at the University of Texas and has spent his career developing strategies for cancer immunotherapy.

Honjo discovered the protein known as PD-1, which serves as a switch for the immune system on the surface of immune cells that attack foreign matter in the body. Allison developed this idea into a new type of cancer treatment.

The winners of this year's physics prize will be announced on Tuesday, followed by the chemistry prize on Wednesday. No literature prize is being given this year.

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