Allison, Tasuku Honjo Win 2018 Nobel Prize In Physiology Or Medicine

Lynette PayneOct 04, 2018

Allison, an American immunologist, conducted a study on a protein that functions as a brake on the immune system.

This drug, dubbed ipilimumab - sold as Yervoy - was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of melanoma in 2011 and is also undergoing trials for use in lung, bladder and prostate cancer.

Two scientists shared the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the Nobel Committee announced here on Monday.

This year's prize is 9 million Swedish krona (about 1 million US dollars). Not all patients may respond to the medicine but for those whom it has left an effect, it has changed their life.

The methods are responsible for the development of cancer immunotherapy, which is included with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy as approaches to fighting cancer. By releasing that brake, Honjo's research had found a "strikingly effective" treatment against cancer.

Thomas Perlmann, Secretary of the Nobel Committee of the Karolinska Institute told the news conference that he talked to Honjo over the phone just before the announcement.

Allison said Monday that his son called at 5:30 a.m. and was the first to tell him that he'd won.

And soon, "there were people beating on my door at 6 in the morning with Champagne", he said.

Honjo, 76, meanwhile vowed to push ahead with his work.

"I had lung cancer", the member was quoted as saying, "and thought I was playing my last round of golf. A comment like that makes me happier than any prize".

One of Carter's treatments was a drug that blocked the immune-cell "brake" studied by Honjo. But for poorly understood reasons, it was hard to rev them up against cancer.

Allison plans to continue his research, focusing on the intricacies of the immune system's response to cancer and identifying new targets for potential treatment. Honojo's lab discovered when they injected antibodies against PD-1 that cancer cells could no longer dupe the T-cells.

Honjo, who has been linked to Kyoto University since 1984, discovered PD-1, an immune system cell protein which also prevents tumors from being attacked. In a statement, the university's president, Gregory L. Fenves, called Allison's work "heroic", adding that "he richly deserves the Nobel Prize". Their works were carried out separately in the 1990s and led to the generation of specific cancer drugs known as "Checkpoint inhibitors".

Charles Swanton, chief clinician at the charity Cancer Research UK, said the scientists' work had revolutionized cancer and immunotherapy. Allison's insight, Perlmann said, was to trigger the brakes instead.

"I never dreamed my research would take the direction it has", he said.

The Nobel in physics will be announced Tuesday, followed by the award for chemistry on Wednesday and the peace prize on Friday.

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