American, Japanese cancer researchers share Nobel Prize in medicine

The Nobel Prize laureates in medicine or physiology are shown on a screen at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm Sweden

Two immunologists, James Allison of the USA and Tasuku Honjo of Japan, won the 2018 Nobel Medicine Prize for research that has revolutionised the treatment of cancer, the jury said on Monday.

Dr. Allison's and Dr. Honjo's work focused on proteins that act as brakes on the immune system - preventing the body's main immune cells, known as T-cells, from attacking tumours effectively. Such treatment is also called "checkpoint therapy", a term that inspired the name of the Checkpoints, a musical group of cancer researchers in which Allison plays harmonica.

Allison and Tasuku Honjo were jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in medicine for their work on cancer therapy, the Nobel Committee announced in Stockholm on Monday.

Honjo, also an immunologist, discovered a second receptor called PD-1 that also acted as a brake, but with a different mechanism of action.

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Such a discovery led to the development of therapies in 2012 that proved to be incredibly effective in our ongoing effort to eliminate cancer.

Tasuku Honjo, a professor at Japan's Kyoto University, said winning the prize was "a great honor".

Allison's therapy was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011 to treat malignant melanoma and has since led to several related therapies for lung, prostate and other cancers. Their works were carried out separately in the 1990s and led to the generation of specific cancer drugs known as "Checkpoint inhibitors". Both scientists have worked on inhibiting these brakes, so that the immune system continues to fight and is capable of fighting against cancer.

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.

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This year the Nobel Prize in medicine has been given to two extraordinary researchers for coming up with a breakthrough in Cancer research.

Honjo and Allison will split the Nobel prize amount of 9 million in Swedish krona, or $1.01 million. The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were created in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901. The drugs have significant side-effects, but have been shown to be effective - including, in some cases, against late-stage cancers that were previously untreatable.

A previous version of this story identified Allison as affiliated with University of Texas at Austin.

Other cancer treatments have been awarded Nobel prizes, including hormone treatment for prostate cancer in 1966, chemotherapy in 1988 and bone marrow transplants for leukemia in 1990.

Allison and Tasuku Honjo Win 2018 Nobel Prize In Physiology or Medicine
Allison was proposing the opposite-to block the "off" signal, according to the ASCO Post, a newspaper that covers cancer research. Honjo's therapy takes a similar but more direct approach. "A comment like that makes me happier than any prize", he said.

The winners of 2018 physics prize will be announced on Tuesday, followed by the chemistry prize on Wednesday.

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