Explained: The cancer therapy that got two immunologists a Nobel

Nobel prize laureates James P. Allison left and Tasuku Honjo are shown during the presentation in Stockholm on Oct. 1

Of the two treatment strategies, checkpoint therapy against PD-1 has proven more effective and positive results are being observed in several types of cancer, including lung cancer, renal cancer, lymphoma, and melanoma.

Before going to see her, I checked her scan report.

This screenshot shows the official Nobel Prize Twitter account. Anderson Cancer Center. Honju works at Japan's Kyoto University. Honjo is also well known for his discovery of activation-induced cytidine deaminase that is essential for class switch recombination and somatic hypermutation.

Among the numerous awards and honours that Honjo has received are the Order of Culture, the Robert Koch Prize and the Imperial Prize of the Japan Academy.

To keep us healthy, the immune system constantly patrols our bodies in search of "non-self" cells, such as bacteria, viruses, cancer and other threats.

Allison, 70, "realised the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumours", the Nobel jury said during Monday's prize announcement in Stockholm.

The already much-heralded University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston has just scored global bragging rights.

The discoveries by Allison and Honjo, 76, "absolutely paved the way for a new approach to cancer treatment", Dr. Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics service at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY, told The Associated Press. He holds the Vivian Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology and serves as deputy director of the David H. Koch Center for Applied Research in Genitourinary Cancers in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology.

The new treatments represented "a landmark in our fight against cancer", the Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute said in announcing the winners. And more recently, scientists have found that combining the two targets can be even more effective in cancer treatment, particularly in combating melanoma.

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Allison has collaboratively worked with scientists around the globe to expand the field of immunotherapy.

This type of therapy is a new approach in cancer treatment.

Despite little initial interest from the pharmaceutical industry, that antibody became ipilimumab, which in 2011 was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat metastatic melanoma.

Allison said he has been professionally friendly with Honjo since the 1980s.

Allison and Honjo have previously shared the 2014 Tang Prize, touted as Asia's version of the Nobels, for their research.

Allison also said he was "honored and humbled" by the award. Later in the morning, the Nobel committee called Allison with the news.

Last year, USA geneticists Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young were awarded 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.

A ceremony at which the prizes are bestowed will be held December 10.

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