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Nobel Medicine Prize awarded for cancer research

03 October 2018

Research by Allison at the University of Texas in the United States and Honjo at Japan's Kyoto University explored how the body's immune system can be harnessed to attack cancer cells by releasing the brakes on immune cells.

James P. Allison studied the T-cell protein CTLA-4 and how it could help with cancer treatment. Honjo discovered the protein, PD-1, that acts as a brake on the immune system in 1992.

"Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer", the assembly said in a statement. By releasing this brake, the body's own immune system can be stimulated to attack tumors.

From AFL player Jarryd Roughead to businessman Ron Walker, to former USA president Jimmy Carter, anecdotes abound for the activity of immune checkpoint inhibitors in advanced cancers such as melanoma, lung, kidney and bladder and others.

Honjo's method of treating cancer by controlling the protein's function to suppress immunity led to the development of Opdivo, a drug used against lung cancer and melanoma.

Jim Allison, the chairman of the center's Immunology Department and executive director of the immunotherapy platform, was recognized by the Nobel Committee along with Japan's Tasuku Honjo for the pair's pioneering research into cancer treatment.

The discovery made by these scientists has revolutionized treatment and improved the prognosis of multiple tumors over the past five years by harnessing the immune system's ability to attack cancer cells.

Wolchok said "an untold number of lives. have been saved by the science that they pioneered".

The 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) chemistry prize is the last of this year's scientific Nobel Prizes.

The already much-heralded University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston has just scored global bragging rights. That's because our immune systems typically fight off foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses, and mostly ignore the cells created within our bodies - which include cancer cells. On top of that, Arnault also has been suspected of violating century-old Nobel rules by leaking names of winners of the prestigious award - allegedly seven times, starting in 1996.

The discovery has led to a new type of cancer treatment called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, however, is less effective for certain cancers such as pancreatic and brain cancer.

Allison's work led to development of the first immune checkpoint inhibitor drug, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center. The victor of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday and the economics laureate will be announced next Monday. Allison found a way to manipulate the protein, allowing immune cells to attack tumors directly.

Honjo, 76, said he wants to continue his research to save more cancer patients.

Two doctors won the award, but it's a win for everyone in the cancer research field. "But now I am able to play golf again".

Dr Arnold of the California Institute of Technology was awarded half the prize for conducting the first directed evolution of enzymes, leading to more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemicals, including drugs, and in the production of renewable fuels. It's a great, emotional privilege to meet cancer patients who've been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade.

Nobel Medicine Prize awarded for cancer research