Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to Scientists Who Developed Breakthrough Cancer Treatment

Wednesday, 03 Oct, 2018

Professor Allison said he wasn't trying to cure cancer, but to understand how T cells worked when, at the University of California, he was studying a protein named CTLA-4.

October 1 (UPI) - The first of this year's Nobel Prizes, in medicine, was awarded Monday to cancer researchers James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo.

Allison's therapy was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011 to treat malignant melanoma and has since led to several related therapies for lung, prostate and other cancers.

Honjo discovered a protein on immune cells that can operate as a "brake" to immune cells, the release said. He continues his own research, focusing on the details of immune response to cancer and identifying new targets for potential treatment.

Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in NY, said "the science they pioneered" had saved "an untold number of lives".

One of the first patients I was privileged to care for in clinic had completed four rounds of treatment with an experimental drug - three months of infusions of a checkpoint inhibitor (one of which is now on the PBS). A year later, he announced he no longer needed treatment.

The two winners made discoveries that "constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer", according to a statement from the institute. Honjo, the fifth Japanese to win a Nobel in medicine, discovered the PD-1 protein, which is responsible for suppressing the immune response.

"I've been doing this sort of stuff for years, and I'd never seen anything like that", Allison said.

"A driving motivation for scientists is simply to push the frontiers of knowledge".

That ability to work against different types of cancer is unusual and shows great promise, said Karre.

T cells are key immune system soldiers.

"When I'm thanked by patients who recover, I truly feel the significance of our research", Honjo said during a news conference at the Japanese university, reports Grady for The New York Times.

"I had lung cancer", the member was quoted as saying, "and thought I was playing my last round of golf. A comment like that makes me happier than any prize", he said. The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were created in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901.

In 2017, USA geneticists Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young were awarded the medicine prize for their research on the role of genes in setting the "circadian clock" which regulates sleep and eating patterns, hormones and body temperature.

He said Allison's work a decade ago "really opened up immunotherapy" as a fifth pillar of cancer treatments, after surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and precision therapy.