Medical

2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to cancer immunotherapy scientists

2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine a...
The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to two scientists instrumental in the development of cancer immunotherapy
The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to two scientists instrumental in the development of cancer immunotherapy
View 2 Images
The top two images show T cells with the "brakes" on (CTLA-4 and PD-1), while in the bottom images antigens (green) have been introduced to release those brakes and improve the immune system's response to cancer
1/2
The top two images show T cells with the "brakes" on (CTLA-4 and PD-1), while in the bottom images antigens (green) have been introduced to release those brakes and improve the immune system's response to cancer
The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to two scientists instrumental in the development of cancer immunotherapy
2/2
The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to two scientists instrumental in the development of cancer immunotherapy

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo, for their efforts in the development of cancer immunotherapy. In the 1990s, the two Laureates independently studied proteins that act as "brakes" on immune cells, and helped develop ways to lift those brakes to improve the immune system's effectiveness in fighting cancer.

To keep us healthy, the immune system constantly patrols our bodies in search of "non-self" cells, such as bacteria, viruses, cancer and other threats. T cells are basically the foot soldiers of this system, and they fight off these invaders by binding to them and signalling for the immune system to launch an attack. This function is controlled by proteins that act like accelerators and brakes, which help to strike the right balance between destroying dangerous microbes and avoiding harming healthy cells.

But what if those brakes could be lifted, under controlled circumstances, so that the immune response to cancer could be ramped up? Independently of each other, Allison studied CTLA-4 and Honjo discovered PD-1, both of which are proteins that act as brakes on T cells, and the two scientists led teams to develop ways to inhibit these to fight cancer by rallying a patient's own immune system against it.

The top two images show T cells with the "brakes" on (CTLA-4 and PD-1), while in the bottom images antigens (green) have been introduced to release those brakes and improve the immune system's response to cancer
The top two images show T cells with the "brakes" on (CTLA-4 and PD-1), while in the bottom images antigens (green) have been introduced to release those brakes and improve the immune system's response to cancer

These two proteins laid the foundation for immunotherapy, which is emerging as one of our best tools against the Big C, which remains one of the most challenging health problems facing us today. Drugs that inhibit PD-1 or CTLA-4 or both have been loaded into nanodiscs and microneedle patches to deliver them to tumors, and other scientists have used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to remove the gene that encodes for PD-1.

The rest of the 2018 Nobel Prizes are due to be awarded throughout the rest of the week. In the video below, Professor Klas Kärre, member of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, discusses the importance of the research and why it earned this year's Nobel Prize.

Source: Nobel Prize

3 comments
guzmanchinky
I look forward to a universal cancer vaccine someday. Someday we will look back and say "can you believe that people died from cancer, car crashes, heart diseases back then???"
Robert in Vancouver
If we put all the money being wasted on fighting 'climate change' into fighting cancer, we would soon have a cure for every cancer.
Jean Lamb
Thank you. Opdivo (nivolumab) saved my husband's life when the regular chemo (ICE) killed my husband's kidneys and resulted in a fun life flight to where he could get dialysis. He now has almost no Hodgkin's at all, according to his last PET scan.