Houston scientist wins Nobel Prize for breakthrough cancer treatment

Houston scientist wins Nobel Prize for breakthrough cancer treatment

Two immunologists, James 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.

In the past decade, immunotherapies that worked to inhibit these brakes have been trialed in patients with advanced melanoma, while others are now being trialed in lung and prostate cancers. It is not, like so numerous diseases we think of when we think of "disease", a threat from outside the body-a raging infection like influenza, pneumonia, TB, or Ebola.

Their breakthroughs take advantage of the immune system's ability to attack cancer cells by releasing the brakes on immune cells.

In the 25 years since they separately discovered "checkpoint inhibitors" in the immune system, their work has become the basis for a range of new cancer therapies.

But 800 clinical trials were in progress worldwide and more than 30 drugs under development as of June, according to the American Cancer Society.

The assembly said the duo were awarded "for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation".

"There are, built into the immune system, these inhibitory circuits that stop the immune system at a certain point so that it doesn't hurt normal tissues, but that also keeps it from attacking tumor cells as effectively as the T cells might".

He later found that some cancer cells produce a protein that interacts with this "braking" protein.

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Promising results soon followed from several groups, and in 2010, a key test showed striking effects in patients with advanced melanoma.

Independently, Honjo had discovered PD-1, another protein in T-cells.

Two scientists have won the Nobel Prize in medicine for research leading to new successful cancer treatments. "We are delighted that it was positively evaluated", said Shinsuke Amano, head of the Japan Federation of Cancer Patient Groups.

"It's a great, emotional privilege to meet cancer patients who've been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade".

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. Honjo assembled his team in the lab to enjoy the recognition. Tasuku Honjo was born in Kyoto, in Japan.

Honjo, meanwhile, said he wanted to continue his research "so that this immune therapy will save more cancer patients than ever".

Currently, numerous drugs on the market are expensive and have side effects, reports Karen Weintraub for Scientific American.

As it turns out, cancer can trip up the body's bodyguards in a number of ways-but one particularly insidious trick is to send out signals to immune system regulators to hold back on an attack.

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