Houston scientist wins Nobel Prize for breakthrough cancer treatment

A screen displays portraits of James Allison and Tasuku Honju winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine during a press conference at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on Oct 1 2018

Trying everything they could in mice to tweak the immune system, Krummel and Allison soon found that a protein receptor called CTLA-4 seemed to be holding T cells back, like a brake in a auto.

Researchers working under the direction of Allison and Honjo discovered methods of removing constraints on "T cells" that fight invaders by modulating immune responses.

In 1992, Japanese scientist, Tasuku Honjo from Kyoto University, separately discovered another protein on immune cells called PD-1 and revealed that it also operates as a brake, but with a different mechanism of action to CTLA-4. The victor of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday and the economics laureate will be announced next Monday.

In 1995, Allison was one of two scientists to identify the ligand CTLA-4 as an inhibitory receptor on T-cells.

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Researchers from the United States and Japan won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for discoveries that help the body marshal its cellular troops to attack invading cancers. Allison developed this idea into a new type of cancer treatment. From 1977-1984 he was a faculty member at University of Texas System Cancer Center, Smithville, Texas; from 1985-2004 at University of California, Berkeley and from 2004-2012 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York. "It represents a paradigmatic shift and a landmark in the fight against cancer".

Allison, 70, is now chair of the department of immunology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

"I was doing basic science to do basic science, but you know, I had the good opportunity to see it develop into something that actually does people good", Allison has said.

"I'm honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition", Allison said in a statement. He announced about a year later that he no longer needed treatment. Their approach, known as immune checkpoint theory, had "revolutionized cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed", the committee said.

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"Until the seminal discoveries by the two laureates, progress into clinical development was modest".

Meanwhile, Allison left UC Berkeley in 2004 for Memorial Sloan Kettering research center in NY to be closer to the drug companies shepherding his therapy through clinical trials, and to explore in more detail how checkpoint blockade works.

Monday's announcement represents only the latest instance in which a current or former Scripps Research scientist has been awarded the Nobel Prize. No literature prize is being given this year. Allison's success with CTLA-4 in cancer persuaded Honjo to consider his molecule in cancer as well-and he found PD-1 therapy was even safer and more effective against a number of cancers, including lung cancer, which kills about 150,000 Americans a year.

No literature prize is being given this year.

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