Cancer immunotherapy duo win 2018 Nobel Prize for Medicine
It was awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their immunotherapy work in the fight against cancer.
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN — The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their work in harnessing the body's immune system to fight against cancer.
Allison and Honjo established a link between immunotherapy and cancer treatment by identifying how the different cells interact with each other.
According to the Conversation, Allison and Honjo were able to identify certain pathways, called "immune checkpoints," that actively stop immune cells from attacking cancerous tumors.
These pathways inhibit the body's T-cells—white blood cells that destroy infected cells and tumor cells—and prevent them from locating and attacking tumors.
Allison and Honjo identified two separate proteins located on the surface of T-cells, CTLA-4 and PD-1, that interact with tumor cell proteins causing T-cells to not attack the tumor.
Allison and Honjo's research led to the development of immune checkpoint inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies that block the regulatory pathways controlled by CTLA-4 and PD-1.
These drugs attach to the CTLA-4 and PD-1 proteins and prevent them from turning off the T-cells.
With some cancers, these new drugs have led to significant tumor regressions. The FDA has approved their use for several advanced cancers such as: metastatic melanoma, lung cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer head and neck cancers and other tumors.
However, there can be significant risks as well. Immune checkpoint inhibitors can cause damaging inflammation in the skin, gut, heart, lungs and other vital organs. In addition, the long-term effects of the new drugs are also currently unknown.
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