October 1, 2018 6:29 am
Updated: October 1, 2018 6:43 am

Japanese, American researchers win Nobel prize in medicine for cancer research

A combination photo shows Ph.D. James P. Allison of MD Anderson Cancer Center at The University of Texas in this picture obtained from MD Anderson Cancer Center at The University of Texas on October 1, 2018 (R) and Kyoto University Professor Tasuku Honjo in Kyoto, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo September 17, 2018.

Mandatory credit Kyodo/MD Anderson Cancer Center at The University of Texas/Handouts via REUTERS
A A

STOCKHOLM – The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded Monday to two researchers from the United States and Japan for advances in discovering how the body’s immune system can fight off the scourge of cancer.

The 9-million-kronor (CAD$1.29 million) prize will be shared by James Allison of the University of Texas Austin and Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University.

READ MORE: Cannibalistic diet contains fewer calories than other paleo diets, and other Ig Nobel prize-winning research


Story continues below

Their parallel work concerned proteins that act as brakes on the body’s immune system and it constitutes “a landmark in our fight against cancer,” said a statement from the Nobel Assembly of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, which selects winners of the annual prestigious award.

Allison studied a known protein and developed the concept into a new treatment approach, whereas Honjo discovered a new protein that also operated as a brake on immune cells.

“I’m honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition,” Allison said in a statement released by the university’s MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he is a professor.

“A driving motivation for scientists is simply to push the frontiers of knowledge. I didn’t set out to study cancer, but to understand the biology of T cells, these incredible cells that travel our bodies and work to protect us,” he said.

WATCH: B.C. cancer patient denied chemo due to condition of homeless shelter

Allison’s and Honjo’s prize-winning work started in the 1990s and was part of significant advances in cancer immunotherapy.

“In some patients, this therapy is remarkably effective,” Jeremy Berg, editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals, told The Associated Press. “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.”

Therapy developed from Honjo’s work led to long-term remission in patients with metastatic cancer that had been considered essentially untreatable, the Nobel Assembly said.

READ MORE: Former US president Jimmy Carter no longer needs cancer treatment

Berg said that former President Jimmy Carter’s cancer, which had spread to his brain, was treated with one of the drugs developed from Honjo’s work.

The physics prize is to be announced Tuesday, followed by chemistry. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday and the economics laureate will be announced next Monday. No literature prize is being given this year.

 

© 2018 The Canadian Press

Report an error

Comments

Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.