Scientists behind cancer therapy win Nobel prize

Scientists Tasuku Honjo (left) and James Allison have been recognised for their game-changing discoveries in the fight against cancer.
Scientists Tasuku Honjo (above) and James Allison have been recognised for their game-changing discoveries in the fight against cancer.
Scientists Tasuku Honjo (left) and James Allison have been recognised for their game-changing discoveries in the fight against cancer.
Scientists Tasuku Honjo and James Allison (above) have been recognised for their game-changing discoveries in the fight against cancer.

STOCKHOLM/LONDON • American James Allison and Japanese Tasuku Honjo won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine yesterday for their game-changing discoveries about how to harness and manipulate the immune system to fight cancer.

The scientists' work in the 1990s has since swiftly led to new and dramatically improved therapies for cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer, which had previously been extremely difficult to treat.

"The seminal discoveries by the two laureates constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer," the Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute said in awarding the prize of nine million Swedish kronor (S$1.4 million).

"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. The treatments have "fundamentally changed the outcome for certain groups of patients with advanced cancer", it added.

Medicine is the first of the Nobel prizes awarded each year. The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were created in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901. The literature prize will not be handed out this year after the awarding body, the Swedish Academy, was hit by a sexual misconduct scandal.

Meanwhile, a Swedish court yesterday found Jean-Claude Arnault, the man at the centre of the scandal, guilty of rape and sentenced him to two years' jail.

Arnault, 72, had been charged with two counts of rape relating to incidents dating back to 2011. The Stockholm court acquitted him of one. Arnault is married to a member of the academy and had close ties with the academy.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2018, with the headline 'Scientists behind cancer therapy win Nobel prize'. Print Edition | Subscribe