Japanese, American win Nobel medicine prize for cancer therapy

Nobel prize laureates James P. Allison left and Tasuku Honjo are shown during the presentation in Stockholm on Oct. 1

AP Nobel prize laureates James P. Allison left and Tasuku Honjo are shown during the presentation in Stockholm on Oct. 1

American James Allison and Japan's Tasuku Honjo have won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine for a pioneering approach to cancer treatment.

"By stimulating the ability of our immune system to attack tumour cells, this year's Nobel Prize laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy", it added.

After his bachelor's in microbiology and his doctorate in biological sciences from the University of Texas, Allison went to Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation near San Diego, for his postdoctoral fellowship. Honjo, 76, is a distinguished professor at the Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study and a professor in the department of immunology and genomic medicine at Kyoto University in Japan.

Meanwhile, Allison left UC Berkeley in 2004 for Memorial Sloan Kettering research center in NY to be closer to the drug companies shepherding his therapy through clinical trials, and to explore in more detail how checkpoint blockade works.


"I'm honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition", Allison said.

Unlike more traditional forms of cancer treatment that directly target cancer cells, Allison and Honjo figured out how to help the patient's own immune system tackle the cancer more quickly.

The prizes for physics, chemistry, and peace will also be announced this week.

Six years later, Allison, who was then a professor in the Division of Immunology and Director of the Cancer Research Laboratory at the University of Berkeley in California, demonstrated that the molecule CD28 is the "gas pedal" that T cells need for activation. The therapy was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2011 and approved by the FDA as ipilimumab (trade name Yervoy), which is now used to treat skin cancers that have metastasized or that can not be removed surgically. The award ceremony is scheduled to be held in Stockholm on December 10, and a total of 9 million Swedish kronur, or approximately 115 million yen, in prize money will be presented to Honjo and Allison.


"I would like to keep on doing my research.so that this immune treatment could save more cancer patients", he said. By releasing that brake, Honjo's research had found a "strikingly effective" treatment against cancer.

Many of Allison's patients are alive and cancer free because of his approach.

"When Dana showed me the results, I was really surprised", Allison said. "I'd like to express my gratitude to many people, including my co-researchers, students, those who supported our research and my family", he said. Lanier says he often spent Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with Allison in the mid-1990s, and remembers Allison talking about the initial experiments that showed him CTLA-4 could fight cancer in mice. In 1992, his lab found another off-switch for T-cells embedded in their membranes: a protein called PD-1. Carter announced in 2016 that he no longer needed treatment.


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