Scientists behind cancer immunotherapies win Nobel Prize in medicine

Scientists behind cancer immunotherapies win Nobel Prize in medicine

Dr. Allison and Dr. Honjo showed releasing the brakes on the immune system can unleash its power to attack cancer.

This year's prize is 9 million Swedish krona (about 1 million USA dollars).

"I was told by the Nobel committee when I was called this morning that this was the first prize they've ever given for cancer therapy", he said. Up until then, the standard arsenal consisted of surgery to remove the tumor and radiation and chemotherapy to poison the cancer.

Their significant body of work elucidated proteins of the immune system that can block the body from defending itself against cancer - leading to breakthrough treatments that could use the body's own defenses to attack cancer cells known as "checkpoint inhibitors". In 2011, Bristol-Myers Squibb's antibody drug Yervoy (ipilimumab) was approved as the first immune-activating cancer drug.

'Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer, ' the assembly said in a statement.

Tasuku Honjo was born in 1942 in Kyoto, Japan. The main focus of their research was to make sense of how cancer rendered the immune system weak and how the immune system could be enabled to fight back against the tumor.

"I'm honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition", Allison said in a statement.

Allison studied a protein on T cells called CTLA-4 that acts as a brake on the immune system. The peace prize will be announced on Friday, and the economics prize will wrap up the Nobel season on Monday, 8 October.

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"Until the seminal discoveries by the two laureates, progress into clinical development was modest", the release stated.

"I would like to keep on doing my research.so that this immune treatment could save more cancer patients", he said.

"I was doing basic science to do basic science, but you know, I had the good opportunity to see it develop into something that actually does people good", Allison said.

They winners will receive their prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of Alfred Nobel, who created the prizes in his last will and testament.

The discovery is transforming cancer treatments and has led to a new class of drugs that work by switching off the braking mechanism, prompting the immune cells to attack cancer cells. He announced about a year later that he no longer needed treatment.

His research also inspired the name of the Checkpoints, a musical group of cancer researchers for which Allison plays harmonica. He is now chair of immunology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Their discoveries are a landmark in the fight against cancer, the committee said.

A ceremony at which the prizes are bestowed will be held December 10. The academy hopes to award both the 2018 prize and the 2019 literature prize next year.

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