American-Japanese duo wins 2018 Nobel Medicine Prize for landmark cancer research

Ben Davidson
October 1, 2018

The two scientists will share the 9 million Swedish kronor ($1.01 million) that comes with the prize. "The discovery made by the two Medicine Laureates takes advantage of the immune system's ability to attack cancer cells by releasing the brakes on immune cells".

The American and Japanese researchers worked out what was stopping immune cells from attacking tumors.

"I had lung cancer", the member was quoted as saying, "and thought I was playing my last round of golf". One cancer doctor said "an untold number of lives. have been saved by the science that they pioneered".

Allison studied a known protein and developed the concept into a new treatment approach, while Honjo discovered a new protein that also operated as a brake on immune cells.

"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.

The Nobel Assembly in Stockholm said the therapy "has now revolutionised cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed".

Allison's and Honjo's prize-winning work started in the 1990s and was part of significant advances in cancer immunotherapy.

T-cells are a type of white blood cell that play a central role in the body's natural immunity to disease.

T cells are key immune system soldiers.

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"When Dana showed me the results, I was really surprised", Allison said.

Thanks to Allison's doggedness, anti-CTLA-4 therapy is now an accepted therapy for cancer and it opened the floodgates for a slew of new immunotherapies, Krummel said.

Their parallel work concerned proteins that act as brakes on the body's immune system.

Meanwhile, Allison left UC Berkeley in 2004 for Memorial Sloan Kettering research center in NY to be closer to the drug companies shepherding his therapy through clinical trials, and to explore in more detail how checkpoint blockade works.

The approach to cancer treatment that was honored with this year's Nobel was used for treating former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who was diagnosed in 2015 with melanoma, which had spread to his brain.

Other cancer treatments have previously been awarded Nobel prizes, including methods for hormone treatment for prostate cancer in 1966, chemotherapy in 1988 and bone marrow transplantation for leukaemia in 1990.

The Nobel Prize is the world's most prestigious annual award for outstanding work in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and promotion of peace.

The literature prize will not be handed out this year after the awarding body was hit by a sexual misconduct scandal.

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