James Allison, Tasuku Honjo win Nobel Prize for cancer research

Nobel prize laureates James P. Allison left and Tasuku Honjo are shown during the presentation in Stockholm on Oct. 1

James Allison of the University of Texas and Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University will share the 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) prize for 2018. Research by Allison at the University of Texas in the United States and Honjo at Japan's Kyoto University explored how the body's immune system can be harnessed to attack cancer cells by releasing the brakes on immune cells.

The 70 year-old Allison worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Research from 1974-77, when the center was known as the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation. On the other hand, Hunjo is a professor at the department of immunology and genomic medicine at Kyoto University. Their work has been crucial to developing new and extremely effective treatments. His work led to development of the first immune checkpoint inhibitor drug.

Writing on his cancer centre's website, Allison said he was "honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition".

The American and Japanese researchers discovered methods of removing the brakes on cells that fight invaders, paving the way for cancer immunotherapy, which has joined surgery, radiation and chemotherapy as a major weapon in the battle against cancer.

Two scientists have been jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine for "landmark" research into how the body's natural defences can fight cancer.

In this video about UC Berkeley's new Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative (IVRI), Allison discusses his groundbreaking work on cancer immunotherapy.

"A lot of conventional cancer therapies are about destroying cells and can be quite damaging, but this is much more targeted and much more specific because it's enabling our immune cells to come in and actually kill the tumour cells directly", she told AFP.

Antibodies against PD-1 have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as an investigational new drug for the treatment of cancer.

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Dr. James P. Allison, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, poses for a photo in NY in 2015.

The treatments, often referred to as "immune checkpoint therapy", have "fundamentally changed the outcome for certain groups of patients with advanced cancer", it added.

"I never dreamed my research would take the direction it has", he said in a statement on his university's website.

"When Dana showed me the results, I was really surprised", Allison said.

Allison has been recognised for his breakthrough research in cancer immunology with numerous awards.

"I think this is just the tip of the iceberg - many more medicines like this are on the horizon", he said.

Thanks to Allison's doggedness, anti-CTLA-4 therapy is now an accepted therapy for cancer and it opened the floodgates for a slew of new immunotherapies, Krummel said. By 2002, the researchers had revealed that mouse cancer cells produce PD-L1 and demonstrated that blocking PD-L1 with an antibody could halt tumor growth. He announced about a year later that he no longer needed treatment.

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