In DepthNOBEL PRIZE

Cancer immunotherapy sweeps Nobel for medicine

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Science  05 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6410, pp. 13
DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6410.13

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Summary

On 1 October, James Allison of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University in Japan were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for work underpinning a new class of cancer drugs. Called immune checkpoint inhibitors, they have revolutionized the treatment of certain types of cancer. In basic research beginning in the 1990s, Allison and Honjo discovered ways to remove the immune system's "brakes" that prevent it from attacking tumor cells. Neither set out to conquer cancer; both were doing fundamental studies of the immune system. But the treatments resulting from their work are now causing previously untreatable tumors, such as metastatic melanoma, to disappear for years in some patients.

  • * With reporting by Dennis Normile and Gretchen Vogel.