Nobel Prize for Medicine Goes to Cancer Immune Therapy Pioneers

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Allison and Honjo have previously shared the 2014 Tang Prize, touted as Asia's version of the Nobels, for their research.

"I've been doing this sort of stuff for years, and I'd never seen anything like that", Allison said. For many scientists, he said, a driving motivation "is simply to push the frontiers of knowledge".

Tap here to watch an animation on how it works. James P. Allison of MD Anderson Cancer Center at The University of Texas in this picture obtained from MD Anderson Cancer Center (R) and Kyoto University Professor Tasuku Honjo in Kyoto, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Since 2012 he has been professor at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas and is affiliated with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

"Jim Allison's accomplishments on behalf of patients can not be overstated", said MD Anderson President Peter WT Pisters, M.D.

The discoveries led to the creation of a multibillion-dollar market for new cancer medicines.

A study released in June tested a form of immunotherapy against chemo for non-small-cell lung cancer, the most common lung cancer worldwide.

The winners were chosen for "for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation".

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Both laureates studied proteins that prevent the body and its main immune cells, known as T-cells, from attacking tumor cells effectively. He developed an antibody to block the checkpoint protein CTLA-4 and demonstrated the success of the approach in experimental models. Drugs based on his findings also work in combination with Yervoy against a number of types of cancer. Honojo's lab discovered when they injected antibodies against PD-1 that cancer cells could no longer dupe the T-cells. In other words, this cancer therapy relies somewhat on serendipity. "Immune checkpoint therapy" has revolutionised cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed".

Dr. Otis W. Brawley, a close friend of Allison's, said the Nobel committee usually waits about ten years to make sure a scientific discovery "sticks as being really important". Allison conducted the research at the University of California-Berkeley.

The American and Japanese researchers discovered methods of removing the brakes on cells that fight invaders, paving the way for cancer immunotherapy, which has joined surgery, radiation and chemotherapy as a major weapon in the battle against cancer. It was because of a sexual misconduct scandal that led to the decision was the Nobel assembly.

Their work centers on harnessing the immune system to arrest the development of cancer. They established a new way to fight the disease.

"We need these drugs to work for more people", Allison said. In a statement Monday, he urged more support for basic science research.

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

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