James Allison of the US and Japan’s Tasuku Honjo won the 2018 Nobel Medicine Prize for discoveries leading to new approaches in harnessing the immune system to fight cancer, the Nobel Assembly said on Monday.
Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy targets proteins made by some immune system cells and some cancer cells. The proteins can stop the body's natural defences from killing cancer cells. The therapy is designed to remove this protein "brake" and allow the immune system to more quickly get to work fighting the cancer. James Allison and Tasuku Honjo will share the 9 million Swedish kronor (Rs. 7.35 crore) prize, announced by the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
They will receive their prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10.Allison is a professor at the University of Texas, while Honjo teaches at Kyoto University. In 2014, both won the Tang Prize, touted as Asia's version of the Nobels, for their research. In 2017, US geneticists Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young won the medicine prize for their research on the role of genes in setting the "circadian clock" which regulates sleep and eating patterns, hormones and body temperature.
The winners of this year's physics prize will be announced on Tuesday, followed by the chemistry prize on Wednesday. The peace prize will be announced on Friday, and the economics prize will wrap up the Nobel season on Monday, October 8. For the first time since 1949, the Swedish Academy has postponed the announcement of the 2018 Nobel Literature Prize until next year, amid a #MeToo scandal and bitter internal dispute that has prevented it from functioning properly.
According to The Guardian, the immune system normally seeks out and destroys mutated cells, but cancer cells find sophisticated ways to hide from immune attacks, allowing them to thrive and grow. Many types of cancer do this by ramping up a braking mechanism that keeps immune cells in check.
(With AFP inputs)