American, Japanese win Nobel for cancer research

American, Japanese win Nobel for cancer research

American, Japanese win Nobel for cancer research

The Nobel Prize laureates for Medicine or Physiology 2018 are James P. Allison, US, and Tasuku Honjo, Japan, presented at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on Monday.

Allison studied a protein that acts as a brake on the immune system and the potential of releasing that brake. Removing these proteins from the equation allows immune cells called T-cells to attack the cancer. Their work has been crucial to developing new and extremely effective treatments.

Around the same time, Honjo discovered a protein on immune cells, the ligand PD-1, and eventually realised that it also worked a brake, but it acted differently. Therapies based on his method have also proved effective in fighting cancer.

However, "immune checkpoint therapy" as it is known has since revolutionised the battle against the disease, and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed.

Allison, whose mother died of lymphoma, built on that research over the next 40 years, mostly in California and in Texas, where he is now chair of immunology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

"By stimulating the ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells, this year's #NobelPrize laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy". For many scientists, he said, a driving motivation "is simply to push the frontiers of knowledge".

Their work centers on harnessing the immune system to arrest the development of cancer.

"For more than 100 years, scientists attempted to engage the immune system in the fight against cancer".

Allison's and Honjo's prize-winning work started in the 1990s and was part of significant advances in cancer immunotherapy.

"However, advanced cancer remains immensely hard to treat, and novel therapeutic strategies are desperately needed", the Nobel Assembly said.

No Nobel Literature Prize is being given this year because the Swedish Academy, the body that choses the literature victor, has been in turmoil after sex abuse and financial scandal allegations.

Medicine is the first of the Nobel Prizes awarded each year. The Nobel prize can only be awarded to individuals, but it is important to remember that others would have been involved in the discoveries.

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