Nobel medicine prize awarded for cancer immunotherapy research

Nobel medicine prize awarded for cancer immunotherapy research

Nobel medicine prize awarded for cancer immunotherapy research

James Allison of the University of Texas and Tasuku Honjo of Japan's Kyoto University did parallel work to stimulate the body's immune system's ability to attack tumors. Releasing the brake allowed immune cells to attack tumors, he found.

Honjo of Japan "discovered a protein on immune cells and revealed that it also operates as a brake, but with a different mechanism of action".

The two men won the prize for their landmark discovery of "cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation".

The two scientists have been awarded the prize for their discovery that the body's immune system can be harnessed to attack cancer cells. "I didn't set out to study cancer, but to understand the biology of T cells, these incredible cells [that] travel our bodies and work to protect us".

"Because this approach targets immune cells rather than specific tumors, it holds great promise to thwart diverse cancers", the Lasker Foundation wrote when it awarded Allison its 2015 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Allison developed this idea into a new type of cancer treatment.

James Allison in 1993, when he was conducting research at UC Berkeley on a promising immunotherapy now reaching fruition. Follow-up studies show 20 percent of those treated live for at least three years with many living for 10 years and beyond, unprecedented results, according to the cancer center.

In a statement to reporters after learning of his award, Allison said he was "honored and humbled".


Allison, whose mother died of lymphoma, built on that research over the next 40 years, mostly in California and in Texas, where he is now chair of immunology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The Nobel Assembly in Stockholm said the therapy "has now revolutionised cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed". He announced about a year later that he no longer needed treatment.

"I was doing basic science to do basic science, but you know, I had the good opportunity to see it develop into something that actually does people good", Allison has said. Therapies based on his method have also proved effective in fighting cancer.

Allison started his career at MD Anderson in 1977, arriving as one of the first employees of a new basic science research center located in Smithville, Texas.

The Nobel Prize is the world's most prestigious annual award for outstanding work in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and promotion of peace.

Last year's prize went to American scientists Jeffrey C Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young for their research identifying genes and proteins that work with the body's internal biological clock, thereby influencing functions such as sleeping patterns, blood pressure and eating habits.

No Nobel Literature Prize is being given this year because the Swedish Academy, the body that choses the literature victor, has been in turmoil after sex abuse and financial scandal allegations.

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