Medicine Nobel Prize Awarded to Two Cancer Immunologists

03 October, 2018, 01:58 | Author: Lillian Steele
  • A screen displays portraits of James Allison and Tasuku Honju winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine during a press conference at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on Oct 1 2018

Of the two treatment strategies, checkpoint therapy against PD-1 has proven more effective and positive results are being observed in several types of cancer, including lung cancer, renal cancer, lymphoma, and melanoma. I saw the ravages of those kinds of treatments.

Other cancer treatments have been awarded Nobel prizes, including hormone treatment for prostate cancer in 1966, chemotherapy in 1988 and bone marrow transplants for leukemia in 1990.

Allison started his career at MD Anderson in 1977, arriving as one of the first employees of a new basic science research center located in Smithville, Texas.

Dr. Otis W. Brawley, a close friend of Allison's, said the Nobel committee usually waits about ten years to make sure a scientific discovery "sticks as being really important".

To keep us healthy, the immune system constantly patrols our bodies in search of "non-self" cells, such as bacteria, viruses, cancer and other threats. Both the proteins work as brakes in the immune system, which includes T-cell, a type of white blood cells, involved in fighting the foreign body. Shortly after, colleagues showed up at Allison's hotel room with champagne to celebrate with him and his wife, Padmanee Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of Genitourinary Medical Oncology and Immunology in the Division of Cancer Medicine at MD Anderson.

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 tumours, including those of the lungs, head and neck, bladder, kidney, colon and liver.

Nobel prize week has kicked off with the winners of the medicine award announced on Monday. She and Allison are longtime collaborators in immunotherapy research.

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Yes, the CTLA-4 antibody inhibitor ipilimumab and PD-1 inhibitors pembrolizumab and nivolumab have all been approved as therapies for treating melanoma in combination with cancer vaccines.

Among those to have received such treatment is former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, who was diagnosed in 2015 with the skin cancer melanoma, which had spread to his brain.

"Honjo sounded extremely pleased", Perlmann said.

"I've been doing this sort of stuff for years, and I'd never seen anything like that", Allison said.

Allison and Honjo have previously shared the 2014 Tang Prize, touted as Asia's version of the Nobels, for their research. Later in the morning, the Nobel committee called Allison with the news. They will share a $1-million award that comes with the prize.

In December, Allison will be honored at the Nobel ceremonies in Stockholm - and he said that he looks forward to seeing fellow honoree Honjo in Stockholm, as well.


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