9 January, 2019

Nobel Prize in Medicine 2018: award for research on curing cancer through immunotherapy!

Nobel Prize in Medicine 2018: award for research on curing cancer through immunotherapy!

Cancer is known to be one of the leading causes of death worldwide and this is a major challenge for the medical community today. According to the World Health Organization, 9,055,027 people died of cancer worldwide only in 2018.

Immunotherapies have been familiar in the field of medicine for decades, yet in recent years through the parallel rapid progress in the field of molecular biology they have become a pillar for the treatment of cancer.

American James Allison and Japanese Tasuku Honjo are awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research in immunotherapy, which has proven particularly effective in the treatment of aggressive cancer. Allison and Honjo showed how different immune-related strategies can be used to treat cancer.

The human immune system acts as a surveillance network to protect against what it perceives as foreign elements/threats. An example is bacterial or viral infections, in which the immune system detects the “invaders” and reacts by producing specific proteins (antibodies) that attack and destroy them.

Immunotherapy is therefore a therapeutic approach based on the use of the human immune system itself to kill cancer cells.

Immunotherapy is revolutionizing cancer treatment with the creation of new drugs/immune checkpoint inhibitors and marks the end of the era of chemotherapy, becoming a landmark treatment for a portion of cancer patients. Instead of attacking the cancer cells directly, these drugs release the body’s own T cells, the “gatekeepers” of the immune system, in order to fight the malignancy. At the same time, patients experience a significantly better chance of survival as they do not experience all the toxic side effects that accompany chemotherapy, which is a “traditional” route of cancer treatment but is now widely known to benefit only a small proportion of patients. Modern immunotherapy has taken advantage of this knowledge and with the help of clinical research has proven to be the new pillar in cancer treatment.

So in clinical practice today, immunotherapy is already actively used in patients with various types of cancer such as non-small cell lung cancer, advanced melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, head and neck cancer and other cancers.

This effectiveness of immunotherapy does not, of course, leave the international scientific community indifferent. As it can be applied in a variety of ways, it can be a weapon against a wide range of diseases, which increases the need for extensive research into its use, making the eradication of certain diseases extremely promising for the near future.

Genekor Medical SA.