The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded jointly to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation”.
James P Allison is an American immunologist. He is the director of the Cancer Research Institute (CRI). His studies have led to discoveries of new treatments of some of the deadliest of cancers. His ground-breaking studies on the mechanisms of T-cells were vital in developing strategies for tumour immunotherapy. He was the first person to isolate the T-cell antigen receptor complex protein. Allison has conducted important studies regarding proteins and its function as a brake on the immune system, releasing which would attack the tumours.
Tasuku Honjo is also an immunologist from Japan. He is renowned for his works towards the identification of Programmed Cell Death Protein 1 (PD-1) which contributed to the establishment of cancer immunotherapy principle by PD-1 blockade. He also discovered Activation-induced Cytidine Deaminase (ACD) and established the basic framework of class switch recombination. He was elected as the foreign associate for the National Academy of Science, USA. Honjo also discovered the role of protein as a brake but with a different mechanism.
Their ground-breaking work towards the treatment of cancer takes advantage of the immune system’s ability to attack cancer cells by releasing brakes on these cells. Every year, cancer takes away many lives due to the difficulty of treatment or the body’s inability to fully recover from the disease. The words of these scientists are a milestone in the history of cancer treatment. ‘Immune Checkpoint Therapy’ has brought about a revolutionizing change in the treatment of this deadly disease and will change the way the world has been perceiving cancer.