Nobel Medicine Prize awarded for cancer research

Ben Davidson
October 4, 2018

The binding of the antibodies to their respective T cell brake is the molecular equivalent of letting the foot off the brake pedal - it releases the inhibition on T cells so they can target tumour cells.

Here's how it works: The immune cells called T-cells are devastating killers, attacking anything in the body displaying molecules called antigens that identify it as foreign and potentially threatening. His previous discoveries on the T cell receptor structure was a revolution in the field of cancer therapy. Dr Honju's area of expertise is the identification of Programmed Cell Death Protein 1 (PD-1) in cancer immunotherapy. But for poorly understood reasons, it was hard to rev them up against cancer. The Nobel Committee members said they are hopeful that combinations of these drugs and other therapies will allow more cancer patients to benefit with fewer side effects.

The discovery of a protein called PD-1 by Honjo and his team has led to the development of Opdivo, a drug used against lung cancer and melanoma which enhances patients' immunity in fighting cancer. When announcing the honor, the Nobel Assembly of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm noted in a statement that "stimulating the ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells, this year's Nobel Prize laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy".

"The booming field of immunotherapy that these discoveries have precipitated is still relatively in its infancy, so it´s exciting to consider how this research will progress in the future", said Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK´s chief clinician.

"Science advances on the efforts of many", Allison said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has congratulated Nobel Prize victor Tasuku Honjo of Japan. He told the Nobel organization in a telephone interview Monday he was "very pleased to hear what I have done is really meaningful".

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

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Honjo and James Allison of the University of Texas were jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in medicine. His work led to development of the first immune checkpoint inhibitor drug.

The Nobel Prize in Physics is to be announced Tuesday, followed by chemistry.

The laureate medal featuring the portrait of Alfred Nobel.

"That's the mission for a country, but Japan lags behind (other countries)", said the deputy director-general of the university's Institute for Advanced Study, who shared the prize on Monday with American scientist James Allison. He's anxious about the other patients, whose cancer resisted drug treatment. Later, she left the Academy also.

The literature prize will not be given this year because of a sexual misconduct scandal at the body that decides the award.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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