Revolutionary cancer-fighting treatment earns scientists Nobel Prize in medicine

Revolutionary cancer-fighting treatment earns scientists Nobel Prize in medicine

Revolutionary cancer-fighting treatment earns scientists Nobel Prize in medicine

Two immunologists have been awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their revolutionary research into cancer treatment.

Their research led to drugs that release the brakes and constitute "a landmark in our fight against cancer", said the Nobel Assembly of Sweden's Karolinska Institute, which selects winners of the annual prestigious award.

"I don't know if I could have accomplished this work anywhere else than Berkeley", Allison said in the press release. "A driving motivation for scientists is simply to push the frontiers of knowledge".

Jedd Wolchok is the chief of melanoma and immunotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY.

"Jim Allison's accomplishments on behalf of patients can not be overstated", said MD Anderson President Peter WT Pisters, M.D. The drugs have significant side-effects, but have been shown to be effective - including, in some cases, against late-stage cancers that were previously untreatable. Before protein inhibitors were invented cancer treatments were restricted to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

In 2014, Allison and Honjo received the first "Tang Prize for Biopharmaceutical Science" for their research in cancer immunotherapy, a type of treatment that allows for the immune system to fight cancer effectively.

Both laureates studied proteins that prevent the body and its main immune cells, known as T-cells, from attacking tumor cells effectively.

Dr Allison believed that for treating cancer, it is important to treat the immune system instead of a tumour. Several such drugs have been approved for use in the US.

Their discoveries have created a billion-dollar market for new cancer medicines, . especially offering new options for patients fighting against melanoma, lung and bladder cancers. "A comment like that makes me happier than any prize", he said.

"It's a great, emotional privilege to meet cancer patients who've been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade. I got into them because I wanted to know how T cells work", Allison said. Allison then spent more than 15 years convincing other scientists and drug companies that his approach could work. He encouraged the 76-year-old Kyoto University researcher to keep up the good work. Many checkpoint therapy trials are now underway against most types of cancer, and new checkpoint proteins are being tested as targets.

Wolchok said "an untold number of lives ... have been saved by the science that they pioneered". Allison tells The Times that patients are "good to go for a decade or more".

Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer when put to the test, particularly during a key study in 2012. "They are living proof of the power of basic science", he added.

He has collaboratively worked with scientists around the globe to expand the field of immunotherapy.

Peter Pisters, president of MD Anderson Cancer Center, praised Monday the work of Allison.

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