UT Austin Longhorn wins Nobel Prize for work fighting cancer

UT Austin Longhorn wins Nobel Prize for work fighting cancer

Ronald Pratt
October 2, 2018

American immunologist James P Allison and Japanese immunologist Tasuku Honjo were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for revolutionary work that has fundamentally changed science's view of how cancer can be managed.

"The seminal discoveries by the two Laureates constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer", the Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute said as it awarded the prize of nine million Swedish crowns ($1 million).

They will receive their prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.

The literature prize will not be handed out this year after the awarding body was hit by a sexual misconduct scandal. He continues his own research, focusing on the details of immune response to cancer and identifying new targets for potential treatment.

"A driving motivation for scientists is simply to push the frontiers of knowledge", Allison said in a written statement released by the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Clinical studies document successful fights against melanoma, lymphoma, lung cancer and renal cancer, and further studies indicate therapy combining CTLA-4 and PD-1 treatments could be even more effective for melanoma patients.

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Therapy developed from Honjo's work led to long-term remission in patients with metastatic cancer that had been considered essentially untreatable, the Nobel Assembly said. Releasing the brake allowed immune cells to attack tumors, he found.

Allison shares the award with Tasuku Honjo, M.D., Ph.D., of Kyoto University in Japan.

Although the concept of using the immune system against cancer arose in the 19th century, initial treatments based on the approach were only modestly effective.

After graduating from the medical department of Kyoto University, Honjo studied at the Carnegie Institution for Science where he was exposed to the latest research on genes and immunology.

Prof Honjo said the award came "completely out of the blue" and "of course, I was very happy, delighted at the same time, but shocked".

"It's a great, emotional privilege to meet cancer patients who've been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade", he added. "They are living proof of the power of basic science, of following our urge to learn and to understand how things work". The victor of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday.