US, Japanese pair win Nobel Medicine Prize for cancer therapy

Former Scripps Research postdoc wins Nobel Prize in medicine

Allison, an American immunologist, conducted a study on a protein that functions as a brake on the immune system.

Allison, 70, "realised the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumours", the Nobel jury said. Allison spent 17 years convincing others that this approach could work, leading to approval in 2011 of the drug Yervoy, which showed near-miraculous results for a fraction of patients with a lethal form of skin cancer.

The award-winning discovery led to treatments targeting proteins made by some immune system cells that act as a "brake" on the body's natural defences killing cancer cells.

A professor at the Unviersity of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center was among two people Monday who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. To take CTLA-4 as an example, Allison's work was part of a sequence of advances starting before Ron Schwartz and Marc Jenkins' work on costimulatory signals and running beyond Nils Lonberg's involvement in the development of the ipilimumab molecule.

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". "A succession of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and colleagues at MD Anderson, the University of California, Berkeley, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center played important roles in this research".

"It's like your body uses your own army to fight cancer", she said.

"I think this is just the tip of the iceberg - many more medicines like this are on the horizon", he said.

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Allison, who is the chair of Immunology and executive director of the Immunotherapy Platform, is the first MD Anderson scientist to receive the world's most coveted award for discoveries in the fields of life sciences and medicine.

"For more than 100 years, scientists attempted to engage the immune system in the fight against cancer".

The treatments, often referred to as "immune checkpoint therapy", have "fundamentally changed the outcome for certain groups of patients with advanced cancer", it added. Carter announced in 2016 that he no longer needed treatment.

In a statement to reporters after learning of his award, Allison said he was "honored and humbled".

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. No literature prize is being given this year.

The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were created in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901.

No Nobel Literature Prize is being given this year because the Swedish Academy, the body that choses the literature victor, has been in turmoil after sex abuse and financial scandal allegations.

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