MD Anderson professor talks about Nobel Prize win

01 October, 2018, 18:42 | Author: Bruce West
  • Former Scripps Research postdoc wins Nobel Prize in medicine

While the concept of tweaking the immune system to better fight cancer was first demonstrated more than a century ago, it wasn't until Allison's and Honjo's work in the 1990s that promising routes toward immunotherapies emerged.

He realized the potential of releasing the brake and unleashing immune cells to attack tumors.

The methods are responsible for the development of cancer immunotherapy, which is included with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy as approaches to fighting cancer.

Allison focused on a protein on the surface of T cells called CTLA-4, discovering that it inhibits the immune cells.

Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer.

The two scientists have been awarded the prize for their discovery that the body's immune system can be harnessed to attack cancer cells. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 108 times to 214 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2017. Honojo's lab discovered when they injected antibodies against PD-1 that cancer cells could no longer dupe the T-cells. Allison developed this idea into a new type of cancer treatment. "A succession of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and colleagues at MD Anderson, the University of California, Berkeley, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center played important roles in this research". Follow-up studies show 20 percent of those treated live for at least three years with many living for 10 years and beyond, unprecedented results, according to the cancer center.

The Nobel Assembly in Stockholm said the therapy "has now revolutionised cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed".

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He was recruited back to MD Anderson in November 2012 to lead the Immunology Department and to establish an immunotherapy research platform for MD Anderson's Moon Shots Program.

"I'm honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition", Allison says in a statement.

Prof Honjo said the award came "completely out of the blue" and "of course, I was very happy, delighted at the same time, but shocked".

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.

The physics prize is to be announced Tuesday, followed by chemistry. Allison's success with CTLA-4 in cancer persuaded Honjo to consider his molecule in cancer as well-and he found PD-1 therapy was even safer and more effective against a number of cancers, including lung cancer, which kills about 150,000 Americans a year.

The literature prize will not be handed out this year after the awarding body was hit by a sexual misconduct scandal. The academy hopes to award both the 2018 prize and the 2019 literature prize next year.

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