American Jim Allison Will Be Award 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine

Ebony Scott
October 4, 2018

All previous treatments focused on tumor cells, but this one was focused on the immune system.

Allison said the biggest challenge with immunotherapy now is to learn why it helps some patients but not others — and how to combine it with traditional therapies to improve outcomes and reduce side effects.

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. But while other teams were investigating the potential of enhancing the action of checkpoints to treat autoimmune diseases, Allison was able to demonstrate that by disabling the brakes, medical experts could produce tangible results in treating cancer in mice.

Allison's work explored how a protein can function as a brake on the immune system, and how the immune cells can combat tumors if the brake is released.

Honjo, who has been a professor at Kyoto University since 1984, separately discovered a second protein on immune cells and revealed that it too operated as a brake, but with a different mechanism.

Allison and Honjo each discovered a way to shut down the checkpoints using drugs called "checkpoint inhibitors", which allow a patient's immune system to rediscover and subsequently destroy cancer cells anywhere in the body. Before Allison and Honjo's work, if you couldn't cure cancer with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, there wasn't a whole lot else you could do.

The prize for physiology or medicine is first Nobel Prize awarded each year. Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer.

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The Guardian reports that the scientists' discoveries have "paved the way for a new class of cancer drugs that are already dramatically changing outcomes for patients".

The $1 million prize will be shared by James Allison, Ph.D., chair of Immunology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Tasuku Honjo, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at Kyoto University.

His 75-year-old wife Shigeko said at the press conference, "I've taken upon myself the job of supporting my husband, so I'm very happy he received the Nobel Prize". Many checkpoint therapy trials are now underway against most types of cancer, and new checkpoint proteins are being tested as targets.

Their discoveries have created a billion-dollar market for new cancer medicines, . especially offering new options for patients fighting against melanoma, lung and bladder cancers.

Meanwhile, the fact that the literature prize will not be handed over this year has grabbed several headlines.

"It's a great, emotional privilege to meet cancer patients who've been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade". The peace prize will be announced on Friday, and the economics prize will wrap up the Nobel season on Monday, October 8. "They are living proof of the power of basic science, of following our urge to learn and to understand how things work".

Other reports by GizPress

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