James P Allison, Tasuku Honjo win Nobel Prize in Medicine
02 October, 2018, 00:21 | Author: Joy Garcia
A Texas immunologist was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his development of a cancer treatment program that focuses on the immune system rather than the tumor.
Allison - who received his bachelor's degree in 1969 and his doctorate in 1973 at UT Austin - shares the award with Tasuku Honjo, a professor at Kyoto University.
Allison's friend, Dr. Ron DePinho, tweeted a video of Joe Biden calling him with the news.
"He told me, 'Thanks to you I can play golf again.'.That was a blissful moment".
Dr Allison, 70, said he was "honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition".
"I never dreamed my research would take the direction it has", Allison said.
Allison "realized the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumors", the Nobel jury said during Monday's prize announcement in Stockholm. "The significance of immunotherapy as a form of cancer treatment will be felt for generations to come".
His drug, known commercially as Yervoy, became the first to extend the survival of patients with late-stage melanoma. "We need more basic science research to do that".
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Allison said scientists need to better understand "how these drugs work and how they might best be combined with other therapies to improve treatment and reduce unwanted side effects". "Doing basic science can have major results in human health care", he says.
"It's a great, emotional privilege to meet cancer patients who've been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade", he added.
Allison's and Honjo's prize-winning work started in the 1990s and was part of significant advances in cancer immunotherapy. Therapies based on his method have also proved effective in fighting cancer.
Many of Allison's patients are alive and cancer free because of his approach.
The Nobel Assembly said after announcing the prize in Stockholm that the therapy "has now revolutionised cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed".
Other cancer treatments have been awarded Nobel prizes, including hormone treatment for prostate cancer in 1966, chemotherapy in 1988 and bone marrow transplants for leukemia in 1990.
Last year's prize went to three Americans for work in identifying genes and proteins that work in the body's biological clock, which affects functions such as sleep patterns, blood pressure and eating habits. No literature prize is being given this year.
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