And The Nobel Prize Goes To…
By Sofy Robertson
The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to two researchers for their advances in discovering how the body’s immune system can fight off cancer.
The presentation took place in Stockholm on Monday where James Allison of the University of Texas Austin and Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University were honoured.
Allison and Honjo’s work concerned proteins that act as brakes on the body’s immune system and was hailed as a “landmark in our fight against cancer” by the Karolinska institute, which selects the Nobel winners. (Huffington Post) Allison said:
“I’m honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition.”
Although rare, remissions from apparently terminal cancer do occur and this led Scientists to dream that it might be possible to harness the body’s own immune system to attack the cancerous malignancies. Due to this, the idea of immunotherapy has been researched and trialled over decades, to no avail.
Allison on the other hand, never gave up hope. He concentrated his work on a protein found on the surfaces of some T-cells. In 1994, Allison and his colleagues at Berkeley discovered that this particular protein puts a brake on T-cells’ ability to respond to cancer. By developing an antibody that blocks the protein, he and his colleagues were able to make tumours vanish from mice test-subjects.
Tasuku Honjo’s work led him to discover how to target PD1 (programmed cell death 1) which now forms the basis for drugs that have been able to treat conditions such as melanoma and lung cancer.
Allison and Honjo will share the Nobel prize sum of nine million Swedish Kroner; approximately $1.01 million. On accepting the prize, Honjo said:
“I want to continue my research […] so that this immune therapy will save more cancer patients than ever.” (BBC)