James P Allison of the U.S. and Tasuku Honjo of Japan won the 2018 Nobel Medicine Prize for research that has revolutionised the treatment of cancer, the jury said on Monday. The therapy is created to remove this protein "brake" and allow the immune system to more quickly get to work fighting the cancer.
Honjo separately discovered a new protein on immune cells and eventually found that it also acts as a brake.
Allison has dedicated his career developing strategies for cancer immunotherapy and now works at the MD Anderson cancer center in Houston. Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer. But he made a switch that changed his life and helped show the value of rallying the immune system to fight cancer.
"I'm honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition", Allison said in a statement released by the university's MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he is a professor. "The immune system was neglected because there was no strong evidence it could be effective", said Nadia Guerra, head of a cancer laboratory at Imperial College London. Allison, initially driven only by curiosity about immune cells, had a insane thought: Maybe CTLA-4 can be exploited to fight cancer.
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Allison and Honjo did parallel work to stimulate the body's immune system's ability to attack tumors.
Charles Swanton, chief clinician at the charity Cancer Research UK, said the scientists' work had revolutionised cancer and immunotherapy.
Therapy developed from Honjo's work led to long-term remission in patients with metastatic cancer that had been considered essentially untreatable, the Nobel Assembly said.
The recipients include K. Barry Sharpless, who won he Nobel in chemistry in 2001 for his insights on antibodies, and Bruce Beutler, who won the prize in physiology and medicine in 2011 for his work in immunology.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded in Oslo on Friday, while the announcement of the economics prize will cap off this year's Nobel season on October 8.
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