Published: Tue, October 02, 2018
Health Care | By Gwendolyn Kim

American, Japanese win Nobel for cancer research

American, Japanese win Nobel for cancer research

Japanese scientist Tasuku Honjo, who jointly won the Nobel Medicine Prize with James P Allison of the U.S., is credited for his discovery of a protein that contributed to the development of an immunotherapeutic drug, opening a pathway for an altogether new way of treating cancer. The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were created in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901.

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. He continues his own research, focusing on the details of immune response to cancer and identifying new targets for potential treatment.

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

It was a rare award for a key cancer breakthrough, in this case the discovery that the immune system can be tweaked to unleash tumor-attacking T cells. "I'm honored and humbled". "A driving motivation for scientists is simply to push the frontiers of knowledge".

The Nobel Committee members said they are hopeful that combinations of these drugs and other therapies will allow more cancer patients to benefit with fewer side effects.

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James Allison of the University of Texas and Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University will share the 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) prize for 2018.

Research by Allison's team has meanwhile led to the development of a monoclonal antibody drug, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011 for the treatment of melanoma. In particular, drugs targeting PD-1 blockade have proved a big commercial hit, offering new options for patients with melanoma, lung and bladder cancers.

"A succession of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and colleagues at MD Anderson, the University of California, Berkeley, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center played important roles in this research". "They are living proof of the power of basic science, of following our urge to learn and to understand how things work".

Other cancer treatments have previously been awarded Nobel prizes, including methods for hormone treatment for prostate cancer in 1966, chemotherapy in 1988 and bone marrow transplantation for leukaemia in 1990.

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