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Nobel Prize for medicine awarded to James Allison, Tasuku Honjo

Nobel Prize for medicine awarded to James Allison, Tasuku Honjo

Immunologists James Allison of the United States and Tasuko Honjo of Japan won the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for research in how the body's natural defenses can fight the scourge of cancer.

Prof Honjo said the award came "completely out of the blue" and "of course, I was very happy, delighted at the same time, but shocked".

"I'm honored and humbled to receive this prestigious recognition", Allison said in a statement.

Tap here to watch an animation on how it works. "Doing basic science can have major results in human health care", he says.

"Jim Allison's accomplishments on behalf of patients can not be overstated", said MD Anderson President Peter WT Pisters, M.D.

He said Allison's work a decade ago "really opened up immunotherapy" as a fifth pillar of cancer treatments, after surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and precision therapy.

Their parallel work concerned proteins that act as brakes on the body's immune system. His work led to development of the first immune checkpoint inhibitor drug.

Antibodies against PD-1 have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as an investigational new drug and developed for the treatment of cancer.

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Allison's drug, known commercially as Yervoy, became the first to extend the survival of patients with late-stage melanoma.

"Allison and Honjo showed how different strategies for inhibiting the brakes on the immune system can be used in the treatment of cancer", it said. Clinical trials are underway in many other cancer types. "A comment like that makes me happier than any prize", he said. "They are living proof of the power of basic science", he added.

"Science advances on the efforts of many", Allison said.

Allison's research was conducted at the University of California, Berkeley. In particular, drugs targeting PD-1 blockade have proved a big commercial hit, offering new options for patients with melanoma, lung and bladder cancers.

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. Some of his leadership positions include serving as a co-leader of the Stand Up To Cancer-Cancer Research Institute Cancer Immunology Dream Team and as a director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI).

The MD Anderson immunologist was featured in a 2015 report by KPRC2.

A ceremony at which the prizes are bestowed will be held December 10. The economics laureate, which is not technically a Nobel but is given in honor of Alfred Nobel, the prizes' founder, will be announced next Monday.

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