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Cancer Immunotherapy Researchers Bag the Nobel Prize for Medicine

Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases that kill more than a million in the United States alone. / Photo by: Rido via Shutterstock

 

Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases in the world and in the United States alone, The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimated 1,688,780 new cancer cases and 600,920 cancer-related deaths in 2017. It is a kind of disease that is characterized by out-of-control cell growth and there are over 100 different types of cancer and each of these can have a huge impact to the affected person since it might change his/her life or worse, it might be fatal and end his/her life. Medical News Today mentioned that cancer could harm the affected body or host when the altered cells will divide uncontrollably to form lumps or masses of tissues which are called tumors. However, in the case of leukemia, cancer will prohibit the blood to have a normal function because of the abnormal cell division in the bloodstream.

 

Nobel Prize Laureate for Medicine

Two doctors Tasuku Honjo and James P. Allison won the Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine for their breakthroughs for fighting cancer. / Photo by: Paramonov Alexander via Shutterstock

 

Years of meticulous medical studies have led the humanity closer to the cure against the killer disease, and the current innovations in cancer treatment involve chemotherapy, radiotherapy, tumor surgery, and hormonal therapy. Scientists are still making an effort to provide groundbreaking innovations to the cancer treatment in order for them to address the issue on the problems that the healthcare industry typically faces when they encounter cancer cases such as aggressive treatment accompanied by unwanted side effects, tumor recurrence after treatment, and aggressive cancers that are resilient to widely utilized treatments.

Which is why, the latest news in the field of medicine gave new light to many cancer patients and cancer treatment experts, after the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute presented the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to immunologists James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their pioneering work in the new field of cancer immunotherapy. A website called Scientific American shared on their website that Dr. James P. Allison is a professor at The University of Texas M.D Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He is behind the genius discovery of a molecule called CTLA-4, which acts as a brake system on the immune system that if it was removed, the immune cells will be unleashed to fight the cancer cells.

On the other hand, Dr. Tasuku Honjo from the Kyoto University in Japan is studying a different immune brake called PD-1, also known as programmed cell death protein 1, a protein that is found on the surface of cells that has a role in regulating the immune system’s response to the cells of the human body by down-regulating the immune system and promoting self-tolerance by suppressing T cell inflammatory activity. The works of the two brilliant researchers have revolutionized the cancer treatments by learning how they would disengage the brakes that would prevent the immune system from attacking cancer. The Washington Post mentioned that Allison and Honjo’s discoveries have led the medical industry to a new class of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors, which form the fourth pillar of cancer treatments.

“I didn’t get into this cure to cancer. I wanted to know how T cells work,” Dr. James Allison said after he received the news about his achievement. He also shared that he has a personal attachment in the cure since his mother died of lymphoma and she was the first of his many family members to die because of cancer. Dr. Tasuku Honjo, however, vowed to continue with his work even though he already received a Nobel Prize, “I want to continue my research… so that this immunotherapy will save more cancer patients than ever,” he told at the reporters at Kyoto where he is based.

 

Hard work results in success

Dr. James P. Allison (left) and his team are made a special kind of drug that was approved by the US. FDA and landed him a Nobel Prize. / Photo by: Gerbil via Wikimeida Commons

 

Scientists have been trying to find a way on how they will engage the immune system to fight against cancer for more than 100 years, and the latest discovery led them into the antibodies which they could use against PD-1. The website Medical Xpress mentioned that Dr. Allison’s team has been conducting researches that led to the development of a monoclonal antibody drug, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of melanoma. He made his landmark work when he was studying the protein called CTLA-4 at the University of California at Berkeley and at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Meanwhile, Dr. Honjo worked on a different kind of protein called PD-1, which also acted as a break that led to the development of anti-PD-1 drugs such as pembrolizumab, also known as Keytruda. The Washington Post also noted that the former US President Jimmy Carter, who was diagnosed with melanoma in 2002 was successfully treated by Keytruda, along with surgery and radiation.

The Nobel presenters also noted that the combination of the anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 treatments are more effective after they demonstrated it in patients who suffer from melanoma. However, there are still repercussions that the healthcare professionals should consider before they jump into combining the immunotherapies since it could have dangerous side effects to patients.

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