American James Allison and Japan's Tasuku Honjo have won the 2018 Nobel Prize.
For developing a pioneering approach to cancer treatment, in the field of medicine, scientists have won the Nobel Prize.
The Nobel committee said the pair's research amounted to a "landmark in our fight against cancer."
"I'm still in sort of a state of shock, and this is all still sinking in. I was told by the Nobel committee when I was called this morning that this was the first prize they've ever given for cancer therapy. I'd like to just give a shout out to all the patients out there who are suffering from cancer to let them know that we are making progress now," Allison said.
James Allison (chair of Immunology and executive director of the Immunotherapy Platform at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center) studied a protein that functions as a brake on the immune system. Releasing the brake allowed immune cells to attack tumors, he found.
"I'm a basic scientist. I did not get into these studies to try to cure cancer. I got into them because I wanted to know how T cells work," Allison said.
T cells, a type of white blood cell, are part of the immune system and help protect the body from infection and may help fight cancer.
Allison's work led to the development of the first immune checkpoint inhibitor drug, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center.
This drug was approved in 2011 to treat several types of cancer, including melanoma, colorectal cancer and a type of kidney cancer called renal cell carcinoma. The effect of this drug is being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer.
Allison plans to continue his research, focusing on the intricacies of the immune system's response to cancer and identifying new targets for potential treatment.
In December, Allison will be honored at the Nobel ceremonies in Stockholm -- and he said that he looks forward to seeing fellow honoree Honjo in Stockholm, as well.
The similar discovery was made by Tasuku Honjo (has worked as a professor at Kyoto University in Japan for the past 34 years), who developed a specific approach to cancer treatment. He discovered a protein on immune cells and illustrated how that too can operate as a brake, though with a different action. Therapies based on his method have also proved effective in fighting cancer.
"Cancer kills millions of people every year and is one of humanity's greatest health challenges. 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 committee said on Twitter.
For your information, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded 108 times to 214 Nobel laureates between 1901 and 2017.