2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine: Cancer immunotherapy

2018 Nobel Prize in medicine has been awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for the discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.

The research focused on molecules created by cancer cells and exposed on their surfaces. Those molecules are an important part of a conflict between emerging cancer and the body’s immune system. Immune cells use the reception of membrane molecules to detect and destroy dangerous objects – including cancer cells – but cancer cells evolve ways to evade that reception. One of their methods is unlocking of genes able to block (inhibit) immune cells activity. Most common inhibiting proteins are PD-1 and CTLA-4. Researchers synthesised proteins that bind PD-1 and CTLA-4, therefore stopping their influence on the immune system. As a result of therapy involving anti-PD1 and anti-CTLA-4 administration, the immune system reduces or even takes out a tumour.