Texas immunologist wins Nobel Prize for groundbreaking cancer treatment

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The discovery made by these scientists has revolutionized treatment and improved the prognosis of multiple tumors over the past five years by harnessing the immune system's ability to attack cancer cells.

Allison discovered CTLA-4, a protein that works like a brake with the immune system while cancer cells attack.

While Allison is an American professor and chair of immunology and executive director of immunotherapy platform at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, Honjo is the deputy director-general and distinguished professor of Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study. In a statement, the university's president, Gregory L. Fenves, called Allison's work "heroic", adding that "he richly deserves the Nobel Prize".

However, "immune checkpoint therapy" as it is known has since revolutionised the battle against the disease, and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed. "They are living proof of the power of basic science", he said in a statement. Honju works at Japan's Kyoto University. As a researcher, "I like being on the edge and being wrong a lot". Allison tells The Times that patients are "good to go for a decade or more".

According to the Nobel Assembly, therapies based on this second molecule have proven to be "surprisingly effective in the fight against cancer".

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From AFL player Jarryd Roughead to businessman Ron Walker, to former USA president Jimmy Carter, anecdotes abound for the activity of immune checkpoint inhibitors in advanced cancers such as melanoma, lung, kidney and bladder and others.

At a news conference in Kyoto, Honjo, 76, told how a member of his golf club once walked up to thank him for the discovery that was used to treat his lung cancer.

The discovery led to effective treatments, specifically some called immune checkpoint blockade therapies. But a powerful system also needs powerful regulation, for which our bodies have evolved so-called "checkpoints", or brakes, that guard against overactivity of the immune response. Before protein inhibitors were invented cancer treatments were restricted to surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

"However, advanced cancer remains immensely hard to treat, and novel therapeutic strategies are desperately needed", the Nobel Assembly said.

The Nobel in physics will be announced Tuesday, followed by the award for chemistry on Wednesday and the peace prize on Friday.

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A Swedish court on Monday found Jean-Claude Arnault, 72, guilty in a case that dates to 2011. The pharmaceutical industry is vigorously pursuing immunotherapy, and hundreds of trials are now underway based on CTLA-4, PD-1 and other immune approaches.

Schachter J, Ribas A, Long GV, et al. A court sentenced Jean-Claude Arnault to a two-year prison term.

"I would be extremely happy if by winning this year, it provides encouragement to the many researchers working in basic research by having the results of that basic research lead to clinical testing", Honjo said.

No Nobel in literature is being given this year because the Swedish Academy, the body that selects the victor, has been in turmoil after sex abuse and financial scandal allegations. She quit in April at the same time as former permanent secretary Sara Danius. The victor of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday.

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.

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