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Science Made Simple: Why Did Tasuku Honjo and James Allison Win The 2018 Nobel Prize for Medicine?

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Highlights:
  • 2018 Nobel prize for medicine has been awarded to Tasuku Honjo and James Allison for their contribution in the field of cancer immunotherapy.
  • This field involves Bioengineering the immune system in ways it can treat cancer.
  • Why was the award given: They had developed a way to remove the brakes the cancer places on the immune cells that try to destroy it.
  • The work of both of these scientists have led to the development of a new class of therapies - Checkpoint inhibitor therapies

Science Made Simple: Why Did Tasuku Honjo and James Allison Win The 2018 Nobel Prize for Medicine?

Two scientists Tasuku Honjo and James Allison have bagged the Nobel prize for medicine 2018 for their extraordinary work in the field of cancer immunotherapy. This field of study mainly works towards equipping the immune system to fight against cancer.

Both of the scientists, Tasuku Honjo from the University of Kyoto and James Allison from Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston were awarded the Nobel prize jointly for their work.

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Fellow scientists consider their work to be incredibly transformative, they even believe that their Checkpoint inhibitor therapies based on breakthroughs can save more lives. Though the treatment is very specific, they believe this mode of treatment has given few cancer patients some hope.

Here is a more detailed explanation of their work :

The reason why both of these scientists were awarded the noble prize jointly because they both had discovered two different proteins that were stopping the immune system from doing its function (i.e., killing the cancer cells), both of their work were along the same lines.
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While James Allison was studying a known protein that functioned as a "cork in the bottle" it basically prevented the immune cells from doing what they are designed to do (i.e., kill cancer cells). After a few years of studying this phenomenon, he realized the potential of releasing the "cork" and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumors (cancer cells).

In parallel to Dr. James Allison's work, Tasuku Honjo also discovered a protein on immune cells that acted as a stopper for immune system, after finding the mechanism by which the cancer cells were clever enough to do this, he decided to develop Therapies based on his discovery, these therapies proved to be strikingly effective against cancer.

Source: Medindia

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