Two scientists behind ground breaking cancer immunotherapies win 2018 Nobel medicine prize

Nobel Prize for Medicine jointly awarded to two cancer researchers from US and Japan

Nobel Prize for Medicine jointly awarded to two cancer researchers from US and Japan

"It is all about interference with the brakes of our immune system as a means to unleash this defense and harness it to develop treatment of cancer", said Klas Karre, an immunologist at Sweden's Karolinska Institute and a member of the Nobel committee, after the announcement in Stockholm this morning.

The duo will share the Nobel prize sum of nine million Swedish kronor (about United States dollars 1.01 million).

Their work, conducted separately during the 1990s, led to the development of drugs known as "checkpoint inhibitors", first used to treat the deadly skin cancer melanoma but now used for a growing list of advanced-stage tumors, including those of the lungs, head and neck, bladder, kidney, colon and liver.

"They don't always grow into flowers, but the more you plant, the more likely they sprout", Honjo said in an interview with Kyodo News, a day after he won this year's award in physiology or medicine for his studies on cancer therapy.

In a statement released on Monday, the Nobel Assembly said the seminal discoveries of the Japanese and American scientists "constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer".

At news conference later Monday in Kyoto, Honjo said what makes him most delighted is when he hears from patients who have recovered from serious illnesses because of his research. All previous treatments focused on tumor cells, but this one was focused on the immune system. He encouraged the 76-year-old Kyoto University researcher to keep up the good work.

The Nobel Prize in Physics and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be awarded on October 2 and October 3, respectively. In his words, "an untold number of lives. have been saved by the science" the two men discovered and developed. According to MD Anderson, Allison's crucial insight was to block a protein on T cells that acts as a brake on their activation, freeing the T cells to attack cancer.

Allison went into cancer research because he always wanted to be the first person to figure something out.

AFP  Getty Images
AFP Getty Images

The Swedish Academy said that the work done by Drs.

He has spent a large part of his career studying devising strategies to fight cancer by studying the regulation of T cell responses in the human body.

Japan's leader said over a speaker phone that Honjo's research had given many patients hope.

In a series of experiments, Honjo showed that PD-1 also works as a T-cell brake, but operates in a different way. He works as an immunologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. By releasing that brake, Honjo's research had found a "strikingly effective" treatment against cancer.

Although the concept of using the immune system against cancer arose in the 19th century, initial treatments based on the approach were only modestly effective.

The awards ceremony will be held in Stockholm on December 10.

The literature prize will not be handed out this year after the awarding body was hit by a sexual misconduct scandal.

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