Japan's Tasuku Honjo wins Nobel medicine prize for work on anticancer care

Nobel Medicine Prize,Nobel Prize,James P Allison

Japanese scientist Tasuku Honjo on Monday won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery of a protein that contributed to the development of an immunotherapeutic drug against cancer.

His method of treating cancer by controlling the protein's function to suppress immunity led to the development of Opdivo, a drug used against lung cancer and melanoma.

"By stimulating the ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells, this year's Nobel Prize laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy", the Nobel Assembly of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm noted in announcing the award to Allison and Tasuku Honjo, M.D., Ph.D., of Kyoto University in Japan.

Medicine is the first of the Nobel Prizes awarded each year.

They will receive their prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.

No Nobel Literature Prize is being given this year because the Swedish Academy, the body that choses the literature victor, has been in turmoil after sex abuse and financial scandal allegations.

A Swedish court on Monday found Jean-Claude Arnault, 72, guilty in a case that dates back to 2011.

Allison studied the T-cell protein CTLA-4 in the '90s, and developed an antibody that inhibited it, curing cancer in mice.Meanwhile, Honjo worked with PD-1, a similar protein capable of helping human patients achieve long-term remission.

USA drugmakers Merck & Co and Bristol-Myers Squibb now lead the field after winning drug approvals in 2014, but Roche, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sanofi are also fielding rivals.

Sales of such medicines, which are given as infusions, are expected to reach some $15 billion this year, according to Thomson Reuters' consensus forecasts, and some analysts see eventual revenues of $50 billion. Some analysts see eventual revenues of $50 billion.

Honjo, 76, meanwhile, vowed to push ahead with his work. He continues his own research, focusing on the details of immune response to cancer and identifying new targets for potential treatment.

Allison also said he was "honored and humbled" by the award.

"I never dreamed my research would take the direction it has", Allison adds.

The Nobel Committee members said they are hopeful that combinations of these drugs and other therapies will allow more cancer patients to benefit with fewer side effects.

"The booming field of immunotherapy that these discoveries have precipitated is still relatively in its infancy, so it's exciting to consider how this research will progress in the future and what new opportunities will arise", he said.

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