Monday, 22 October, 2018

American, Japanese wins Nobel for cancer research

James P Allison and Tasuku Honjo win Nobel prize for medicine James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo Win 2018 Nobel Prize In Physiology or Medicine
Delores Daniels | 03 October, 2018, 18:42

"By stimulating the ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells, this year's #NobelPrize laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy".

You can thank scientists like Jim Allison and Tasuku Honjo for that. He learned that the protein could put the brakes on T cells, creating what's called an immune "checkpoint". His research led to the development of ipilimumab (Yervoy), the first FDA-approved immune checkpoint inhibitor.

Despite the promising research, Honjo found it hard to convince the pharmaceutical industry to follow up on his findings and develop drugs that would be based on his research.

Other cancer treatments have been awarded Nobel prizes, including hormone treatment for prostate cancer in 1966, chemotherapy in 1988 and bone marrow transplants for leukemia in 1990.

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The discoveries by Allison and Honjo, 76, "absolutely paved the way for a new approach to cancer treatment", Dr. Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics service at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY, told The Associated Press.

James P. Allison studied the T-cell protein CTLA-4 and how it could help with cancer treatment. While Allison is an American professor and chair of immunology and executive director of immunotherapy platform at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, Honjo is the deputy director-general and distinguished professor of Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study. "Then to have that work recognized by the Nobel Committee is going to bring attention to the issues, the importance of basic science, and that there is hope for cancer patients". The two scientists will share the 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) prize.

"We know that some patients have a very low chance of responding. those with little evidence that these pathways are actively restricting the immune system, or those with cancers that are less heavily mutated", he said. 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.

The prizes for physics, chemistry, and peace will also be announced this week.

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Allison, 70, is now chair of the department of immunology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

This data paved the way for utilizing PD-1 as a target in the treatment of patients.Clinical development ensued, and in 2012 a key study demonstrated clear efficacy in the treatment of patients with different types of cancer. From 1977-1984 he was a faculty member at University of Texas System Cancer Center, Smithville, Texas; from 1985-2004 at University of California, Berkeley and from 2004-2012 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York.

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

In 2014, Allison and Honjo received the first "Tang Prize for Biopharmaceutical Science" for their research in cancer immunotherapy, a type of treatment that allows for the immune system to fight cancer effectively. The treatments have also come, in some cases, with serious side effects and complications.

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