James P Allison of U.S., who jointly won the Nobel Medicine Prize with Tasaku Honjo of Japan for their discovery of cancer therapy by "inhibition of negative immune regulation", was intrigued by the immune system right from the time when he was an undergraduate and made a decision to dedicate his life's work to understand how it worked.
Allison and Honjo's work had both worked on proteins that act as brakes on the immune system - preventing the body and its main immune cells, known as T-cells, from attacking tumour cells effectively. On the other hand, Hunjo is a professor at the department of immunology and genomic medicine at Kyoto University. His work led to development of the first immune checkpoint inhibitor drug.
"I'm honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition", Allison said in a written statement.
Unlike more traditional forms of cancer treatment that directly target cancer cells, Allison and Honjo figured out how to help the patient's own immune system tackle the cancer more quickly.
Medicine is the first of the Nobel Prizes awarded each year.
"I want to continue my research, so that this immune therapy will save more cancer patients than ever", he told reporters at the University of Kyoto where he is based. Lower left: Antibodies (green) against CTLA-4 block the function of the brake leading to activation of T cells and attack on cancer cells.Upper right: PD-1 is another T-cell brake that inhibits T-cell activation.
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"I never dreamed my research would take the direction it has", Allison adds. By releasing that brake, Honjo's research had found a "strikingly effective" treatment against cancer.
He said Allison's work a decade ago "really opened up immunotherapy" as a fifth pillar of cancer treatments, after surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and precision therapy. American James Allison and Japanese Tasuku Honjo were awarded the honourable prize by the award-giving body. His discoveries led to a fundamentally new strategy for treating malignancies that unleashes the immune system to kill cancer cells.
Perlmann said he had not yet managed to contact Allison.
After Allison himself replicated the experiment, "that's when I said, OK, we've got something here".
Crucial funding for his research over the years has come from the National Institutes of Health, particularly the National Cancer Institute, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Cancer Research Institute, Prostate Cancer Foundation, Stand Up to Cancer and PICI.
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.
Charles Swanton, chief clinician at the charity Cancer Research UK, said the scientists' work had revolutionized cancer and immunotherapy. He announced about a year later that he no longer needed treatment.