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2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to 2 Cancer Immunotherapy Researchers

Baku, October 2, AZERTAC

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2018 was awarded jointly to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo "for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation", according to the nobelprize.org website.

Cancer kills millions of people every year and is one of humanity’s greatest health challenges. By stimulating the inherent ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells this year’s Nobel Laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.

James P. Allison studied a known protein that functions as a brake on the immune system. He realized the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumors. He then developed this concept into a brand new approach for treating patients.

In parallel, Tasuku Honjo discovered a protein on immune cells and, after careful exploration of its function, eventually revealed that it also operates as a brake, but with a different mechanism of action. Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer.

Allison and Honjo showed how different strategies for inhibiting the brakes on the immune system can be used in the treatment of cancer. The seminal discoveries by the two Laureates constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer.

Until their breakthroughs cancer treatment consisted of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Their work led to a fourth class of treatment, harnessing the immune system, what the Nobel committee at the Karolinska Institute called “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.”

Dr. Honjo, 76, is a longtime professor at Kyoto University, where he did his breakthrough work. Previously, he did research at Osaka University, the University of Tokyo and the National Institutes of Health in Washington.

Dr. Allison, 70, is chairman of immunology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He did the work recognized by the Nobel committee while working the University of California at Berkeley and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

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