Japanese, American win Nobel medicine prize for cancer therapy

Japanese, American win Nobel medicine prize for cancer therapy

Japanese, American win Nobel medicine prize for cancer therapy

Allison's and Honjo's work focussed on proteins that act as brakes on the immune system - preventing the body's main immune cells, known as T-cells, from attacking tumours effectively. Lower left: Antibodies (green) against CTLA-4 block the function of the brake leading to activation of T cells and attack on cancer cells.Upper right: PD-1 is another T-cell brake that inhibits T-cell activation.

The list of other possible awardees included a number of American researchers including Arlene Sharpe and Gordon Freeman at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Jedd Wolchok at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and Carl June at the University of Pennsylvania, who pioneered another approach to immunotherapy.

Trying everything they could in mice to tweak the immune system, Krummel and Allison soon found that a protein receptor called CTLA-4 seemed to be holding T cells back, like a brake in a auto. "I didn't set out to study cancer, but to understand the biology of T cells, these incredible cells that travel our bodies and work to protect us", he added.

The Nobel Assembly said after announcing the prize in Stockholm that the therapy "has now revolutionised cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed".

Allison, 70, is now chair of the department of immunology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

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

An immunologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin, he focused on a type of immune system cell called the T cell or T lymphocyte, which plays a key role in fighting off bacterial and viral infections as well as cancer.

Allison's interest in the immune system was deepened by an experiment he conducted on mice when he was a graduate student. "A comment like that makes me happier than any prize", he said. Perlmann said the Nobel Committee chose to highlight Allison and Honjo to reflect the basic science that created a new "pillar" of cancer therapy.

The discoveries led to the creation of a multibillion-dollar market for new cancer medicines. The victor of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday and the economics laureate will be announced next Monday.

Awards in physics, chemistry, peace and economics will follow.

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.

Meanwhile, the fact that the literature prize will not be handed over this year has grabbed several headlines.

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