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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 57-58

Nobel prize in physiology or medicine 2018

Department of Medicine, MG Institute of Medical Sciences, Wardha, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication14-Mar-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Omprakash P Gupta
Department of Medicine, MG Institute of Medical Sciences, Sewagram, Wardha, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmgims.jmgims_2_19

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How to cite this article:
Gupta OP. Nobel prize in physiology or medicine 2018. J Mahatma Gandhi Inst Med Sci 2019;24:57-8

How to cite this URL:
Gupta OP. Nobel prize in physiology or medicine 2018. J Mahatma Gandhi Inst Med Sci [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Mar 29];24:57-8. Available from: http://www.jmgims.co.in/text.asp?2019/24/1/57/254122

The Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for the year 2018 is shared by the two eminent scientists, JamesP Allison (USA) and Tasuku Honjo (Japan) for their “discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.”[1]

The treatment of cancer remained enigmatic and a challenge to the scientific community despite many discoveries such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy for which the Nobel prizes have been awarded earlier. The pioneering work by Allison and Honjo has further given rise to new hopes and expectations with future prospects of cure!

James P. Allison, Professor and Chair of Immunology and Executive Director of Immunotherapy at Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, Austin, was born on August 7, 1948. Incidentally, his wife Padmanee Sharma, a leading urogynecological oncologist, is of Indian origin settled in Guyana. He earned his Ph.D in biological sciences in 1973. He was appointed as a Professor of Immunology and Director of Cancer Research Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985. Concurrently, he was appointed as a professor at the University of California, San Fransisco, from 1997. During this period, he studied the T-cell protein CTLA-4 and observed that it functions as a brake on T-cells. Differing from the other scientists who exploited this mechanism for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, he developed an antibody that could bind to CTLA-4 and block its function. He further investigated (1994) whether CTLA-4 blockade could disengage the T-cell brake so that the immune system could attack the cancer cell. In subsequent experiments, he got spectacular results in mice which was cured of cancer. He continued his intense efforts, and in 2010, a clinical study showed striking effects in patients with advanced melanoma.

He received many prizes for his excellent scientific work such as Breakthrough Prize in Life Science, Harvey Prize in 2014, Wolf Prize, Sjoberg-Prize (2017), King Faisal International Prize (2018), Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research (2018), and finally the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2018). At present, he is working as Chairperson, Immunology, at MD Anderson Cancer Centre.[1]

“The immune system might control tumor” was postulated by Nobel Laureate Paul Ehrlich about 120 years ago, the scientists attempted to engage the immune system in the fight against cancer. However, there has been modest progress in the clinical development. The latest discoveries by Allison and Honjo lead to new medicines that activate the immune system to fight against cancer.[2]

Dr. Honjo was born in Kyoto (Japan) on January 27, 1942. He received his MD in Medicine (1966) and Ph.D., in Medical Chemistry (1975) from Kyoto University. He was a visiting fellow at Carnegie Institute in Washington before joining the National Institute of Health Bethesda, Maryland, and studied genetic basis of immune response. He held several positions in different universities of Japan, like Assistant professor (Faculty of Medicine University of Tokyo), Prof. of Genetics (Osaka University School of Medicine), Professor, Medical Chemistry (Kyoto University). Since 2005, he has been working as a professor in the Department of Immunology and Genomic Medicine, Kyoto University.

At present, he is a member of the Japanese Society for Immunology. He is also an honorary member of the American Association of Immunologists. Since 2017, he is also Deputy Director-General and Distinguished Professor of Kyoto University Institute for Advanced studies.

The molecular cytokines, interleukin-4 (IL-4) and IL-5, have also been identified by him. The PD-1 is another T-cell brake that inhibits T-cell activation. The antibodies against PD-1 inhibit the function of brake which leads to activation of T-cells, which efficiently fights against the cancer cells. The discoveries of these Nobel Laureates led to the development of the monoclonal antibodies (called as immune checkpoint inhibitors) that inhibit the T-cells brake by blocking the regulatory pathways controlled by CTLA-4 and PD-1 proteins. Use of these drugs led to dramatic regression of tumors. These drugs have been by the Food and Drug Administration (USA) for clinical use in advanced cancers. They are found to be useful against metastatic tumors also where no other drug has been found to be effective. Combining therapy which targets both CTLA_$ and PD-1 is thought to be more effective. Both these discoveries are landmarks in our fight against cancer.[3]

  References Top

Available from: https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_P_Allison. [Last accessed on 2018 Nov 22].  Back to cited text no. 1
Available from: https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasuku_Honjo. [Last accessed on 2019 Jan 24].  Back to cited text no. 3


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