The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to James P. Allison and Tasaku Honjo by the Nobel Committee for advances in discovering how the body's immune system can fight off the scourge of cancer.
The Nobel Assembly today said, both the scientists were honoured for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.
Allison, who is a professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, was studying a protein called CTLA-4 that inhibits a person's immune system by putting the brakes on the actions of T cells. Removing these proteins from the equation allows immune cells called T-cells to attack the cancer.
"Cancer patients are being saved by (the new cancer medicine) Opdivo, which originated from a study carried out by the Japanese researcher".
One of Carter's treatments was a drug that blocked the immune-cell "brake" studied by Honjo. "The number of different types of cancers for which this approach to immunotherapy is being found to be effective in at least some patients continues to grow". They have shown remarkable success against cancers such metastatic melanoma, bladder and lung cancers, sparking a revolution in treatment and a billion dollar market for the drugs.
Among the numerous awards and honours that Honjo has received are the Order of Culture, the Robert Koch Prize and the Imperial Prize of the Japan Academy.
Tasuku Honjo was born in 1942 in Kyoto, Japan.
He said Allison's work a decade ago "really opened up immunotherapy" as a fifth pillar of cancer treatments, after surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and precision therapy. Their work has been crucial to developing new and extremely effective treatments.
"It's a great, emotional privilege to meet cancer patients who've been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade", he added.
The combined work of these two scientists has led to new ways to beat cancer.
In 2014, Dr. Allison was awarded a Canada Gairdner International Award for his pioneering work on checkpoint inhibitors, making him the 88th victor of the prestigious Canadian prize to go on to claim a Nobel.
Instead, it is "going to be part of therapy that potentially all cancer patients will receive in five years", he told a press conference in NY.
Prior to the discoveries made by this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology winners, progress into clinical development of new cancer treatments was slow.