The Nobel committee on Monday announced that the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to a US-Japanese pair for their landmark work in cancer research. "Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer", the prize committee said of his discovery. He performed his prize-winning studies at the University of California Berkeley and at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY.
Allison, professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, studied a protein that functions as a brake on the immune system and realized the potential for unleashing immune cells to attack tumors if the brake could be released.
Honjo has separately discovered a second protein on immune cells.
"Allison's and Honjo's discoveries have added a new pillar in cancer therapy".
However, "immune checkpoint therapy" as it is known has since revolutionised the battle against the disease, and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed. The discovery led to effective treatments. Honjo, 76, is a distinguished professor at the Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study and a professor in the department of immunology and genomic medicine at Kyoto University in Japan.
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Allison and Tasuku Honjo have jointly been awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology.
Other cancer treatments have previously been awarded Nobel prizes, including methods for hormone treatment for prostate cancer in 1966, chemotherapy in 1988 and bone marrow transplantation for leukaemia in 1990.
They will receive their prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament. No literature prize is being given this year.
As well as enjoying science's highest honour, the two winners will share the prize of almost €900,000.