American, Japanese win Nobel for cancer research

American, Japanese win Nobel for cancer research

Prof Honjo wants to continue his research, "so that this immune therapy will save more cancer patients than ever". "We submitted to Nature, and it was published; we got a lot of notoriety for that". "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", he added.

"While most researchers investigating cancer immunology were advocating vaccines to turn "on" T cells to drive antitumor immune responses, Dr. Allison was proposing the opposite-to block the "off" signal, according to the ASCO Post, a newspaper that covers cancer research".

Allison, a professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre, studied a protein that functions as a brake on the immune system and realized the potential for unleashing immune cells to attack tumours if the brake could be released.

Both laureates studied proteins that prevent the body and its main immune cells, known as T-cells, from attacking tumor cells effectively.

Jim Allison, the chairman of the center's Immunology Department and executive director of the immunotherapy platform, was recognized by the Nobel Committee along with Japan's Tasuku Honjo for the pair's pioneering research into cancer treatment.

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

"Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer", the assembly said in a statement.

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The discovery led to a concept called "checkpoint blockade". They protect our T-cells from becoming overexposed to foreign invaders and, as outcome, too revved up.

It is the second leading cause of death worldwide and it is estimated that this year, 9.6 million people will die from cancer.

Despite little initial interest from the pharmaceutical industry, that antibody became ipilimumab, which in 2011 was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat metastatic melanoma.

Meanwhile, Allison left UC Berkeley in 2004 for Memorial Sloan Kettering research center in NY to be closer to the drug companies shepherding his therapy through clinical trials, and to explore in more detail how checkpoint blockade works.

Normally, PD-1 proteins work like sunglasses. Some types of cancers can intentionally stimulate PD-1 on T-cells, causing the immune bodyguards to take a hike. Targeting PD-1 has shown positive results in treating lung cancer, renal cancer, lymphoma and melanoma.

For decades researchers had been trying to figure out effective ways to use the body's own immune system against cancer.

Born in Alice, Texas, on August 7, 1948, Allison earned a microbiology in 1969 and a biological science in 1973 from the University of Texas, Austin.

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