Houston scientist wins Nobel Prize for breakthrough cancer treatment

01 October, 2018, 18:44 | Author: Denise Dawson
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The scientists' work in the 1990s has since swiftly led to new and dramatically improved therapies for cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer, which had previously been extremely hard to treat.

Honjo separately discovered a new protein on immune cells and eventually found that it also acts as a brake.

The seminal discoveries represent a "paradigmatic shift in the fight against cancer", the Nobel committee said, since they do so not by targeting the tumor cells but by tweaking the immune system. The Swedish Academy said that the academics' discovery takes the advantage of the immune system's ability to attack the cancer cells by releasing the brakes on immune 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".

A professor at the Unviersity of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center was among two people Monday who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Other scientists worked on using CTLA-4 as a way to treat autoimmune disorders.

Among those to have received such treatment is former USA president Jimmy Carter, who was diagnosed in 2015 with the skin cancer melanoma, which had spread to his brain. "James P. Allison studied a protein that functions as a brake on the immune system".

James Allison in 1993, when he was conducting research at UC Berkeley on a promising immunotherapy now reaching fruition. Allison, initially driven only by curiosity about immune cells, had a insane thought: Maybe CTLA-4 can be exploited to fight cancer.

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"When we showed (Professor Ralph) Reisfeld a paper we wrote, he actually said, 'I don't want my name on it".

Commenting on Monday's award, Dan Davis, an immunologist at Britain's University of Manchester, said "this game-changing cancer therapy" has "sparked a revolution in thinking about the many other ways in which the immune system can be harnessed or unleashed to fight cancer and other illnesses".

Writing on his cancer centre's website, Allison said he was "honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition". The field hums with stories of lives extended: "the woman with a grapefruit-size tumor in her lung from melanoma, alive and healthy 13 years later; the 6-year-old near death from leukemia, now in third grade and in remission; the man with metastatic kidney cancer whose disease continued fading away even after treatment stopped".

"Until the discoveries made by the 2018 Medicine Laureates, progress into clinical development was modest". "Doing basic science can have major results in human health care", he says.

Monday's announcement represents only the latest instance in which a current or former Scripps Research scientist has been awarded the Nobel Prize.

Medicine is the first of the Nobel Prizes to be handed out each year.

Arnault, 72, is married to a member of the Swedish Academy which selects the Nobel Literature Prize victor, and his cultural club Forum received generous funding from the Academy.

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