The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their separate research, which led to the development of immune checkpoint therapy.
In 1996, James P. Allison and co-workers demonstrated that antibodies directed against CTLA-4 were capable of unleashing an immune response which leads to enhanced anti-tumour immune responses and tumour rejection. The work ultimately led to the development of ipilimumab which was approved for the treatment of metastatic melanoma in 2011.
In parallel, PD-1 was identified in the laboratory of Tasuku Honjo in the early 1990s, which led to the subsequent use of antibodies directed against PD-1 and its ligand PD-L1 being approved for several cancer forms.
In a statement, the Nobel Assembly said the findings of Allison and Honjo had conferred “great benefit on mankind” and constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer.
“For more than 100 years scientists attempted to engage the immune system in the fight against cancer. Until the seminal discoveries by the two laureates, progress into clinical development was modest. Checkpoint therapy has now revolutionised cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed,” it said.