Last updated on July 13th, 2020 at 10:13 pm
The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded by The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet jointly to James P. Allison of M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, United States and Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study (KUIAS), Japan for their work for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.
Cancer is one of the most infamous killers in human history and is been regarded as the prime challenge that needs a solution sooner than later. This year’s Nobel Laureates have brought forth a novel principle for cancer therapy by using the inherent ability of our own immune system to attack foreign or, one can say, rogue cells (such as tumor cells).
Some proteins function as checkpoints or brakes within our physiology, which help in regulating the various pathways working simultaneously in our cells. These brakes can have varied uses one of which is sensing. Such a protein was studied by James P. Allison, who managed to release this break, thereby unleashing the immune cells to attack tumor cells. This got developed into a novel approach for treating patients.
Proteins present both within and on the surface of the cells. Tasuku Honjo discovered a protein on the membrane of the immune cells. On further studies his lab could conclude that the protein has a role as a checkpoint, but with a different mechanism of action. The effectiveness of the therapies based on this discovery opened a new avenue for treatment of cancer.
Both these studies show that strategies for inhibiting the brakes on our immune system can indeed be an effective way to treat cancer.
Tasuku Honjo, born 27 January 1942 is a Japanese immunologist, and Nobel laureate best known for his identification of Programmed Cell Death Protein 1 (PD-1). He completed his M.D. in 1966 from the Faculty of Medicine, Kyoto University, wherein 1975 he received his Ph.D. in Medical Chemistry. After studying in the US, he was an assistant professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Tokyo between 1974 and 1979, and served as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Genetics, School of Medicine, Osaka University between 1979 and 1984. He was elected as a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences, USA in 2001, as a member of German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina in 2003 and also as a member of the Japan Academy in 2005. He is a member of Japanese Society for Immunology and is an honorary member of the American Association of Immunologists. Since 1984 he has been a faculty member of Kyoto University, and in 2017 he became Deputy Director-General and Distinguished Professor of Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study (KUIAS).
JAMES P. ALLISON
James Patrick Allison, born 7 August 1948, is an American immunologist and Nobel laureate who holds the position of professor and chair of Immunology and executive director of immunotherapy platform at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Allison earned a B.S. in microbiology from University of Texas, Austin in 1969. He earned his Ph.D. in biological science in 1973, also from UT Austin, as a student of G. Barrie Kitto. He is also the director of the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) scientific advisory council. In 2014, he was awarded the Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science.
Here’s a video of the announcement of the prize:
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Akshat Mishra is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in Physics from Lund University in Sweden. He feels the need to explore the depths of the not-so-dark universe while at the same time watch the quanta in action. Electronic Music is what puts him in the thinking zone.