James Al­li­son, Ta­suku Honjo win No­bel in medicine

BioSpectrum (Asia) - - People News -

James P Al­li­son of the US and Ta­suku Honjo of Ja­pan have won the 2018 No­bel Medicine

Prize for re­search that has rev­o­lu­tionised the treat­ment of can­cer.

Ja­panese sci­en­tist Ta­suku Honjo has been awarded the No­bel Prize for his dis­cov­ery of a pro­tein that con­trib­uted to the de­vel­op­ment of an im­munother­a­peu­tic drug against can­cer. Honjo, a 76-year-old pro­fes­sor at Ky­oto Univer­sity, opened a path­way for a new can­cer treat­ment by dis­cov­er­ing the PD-1 pro­tein, which is re­spon­si­ble for sup­press­ing im­mune re­sponse.

His method of treat­ing can­cer by con­trol­ling the pro­tein’s func­tion to sup­press im­mu­nity led to the de­vel­op­ment of Nivolumab, a drug mar­keted as Op­divo and used against lung can­cer and me­lanoma.

In 2006, his re­search was tested in a clin­i­cal trial be­fore Op­divo was fi­nally ap­proved in Ja­pan, in July 2014, and sub­se­quently in the United States and Europe. The work led to a fourth class of treat­ment along­side surgery, chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion that har­nesses the im­mune sys­tem.

Al­li­son, chair of Im­munol­ogy and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Im­munother­apy Plat­form at the Univer­sity of Texas MD An­der­son Can­cer Cen­ter, stud­ied a pro­tein that func­tions as a brake on the im­mune sys­tem. He found that re­leas­ing the brake al­lowed im­mune cells to at­tack tu­mors. The dis­cov­ery led to ef­fec­tive treat­ments, specif­i­cally some called im­mune check­point block­ade ther­a­pies.

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