Another Nobel, Another Win for Animal Research

It’s Nobel season!

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was announced today, and once again, animal research wins!

Add “2018 Nobel Prize” to that CV!

Drs. James P. Allison (MD Anderson Cancer Center) and Tasaku Honjo (Kyoto University) will share the $1 million prize for their work in cancer immunotherapy, which relied on the critical contribution of animal models to demonstrate different strategies for “releasing the brakes” on the immune system to be able to treat cancer. This discovery has since led to numerous novel treatments for many types of cancer.

Working separately, in the 1990s Drs. Allison and Honjo studied cell lines from mice, as well as live mice, to show how certain proteins act as “brakes” on the immune system’s T-cells, thus limiting the T-cells’ ability to fight cancer cells. They showed that suppressing those proteins could allow the body to fight cancer, given appropriate treatments. Until this breakthrough, cancer treatments had consisted of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. This work led to a fourth type of treatment: harnessing the immune system. The Nobel committee called this treatment “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.”

Kudos to the researchers and the animal models who have saved countless lives with this groundbreaking work!

~Speaking of Research

Key Publications

Ishida, Y., Agata, Y., Shibahara, K., & Honjo, T. (1992). Induced expression of PD-1, a novel member of the immunoglobulin gene superfamily, upon programmed cell death. EMBO J.11(11), 3887–3895.

Leach, D. R., Krummel, M. F., & Allison, J. P. (1996). Enhancement of antitumor immunity by CTLA-4 blockade. Science271(5256), 1734–1736.

Kwon, E. D., Hurwitz, A. A., Foster, B. A., Madias, C., Feldhaus, A. L., Greenberg, N. M., Burg, M.B. & Allison, J.P. (1997). Manipulation of T cell costimulatory and inhibitory signals for immunotherapy of prostate cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA94(15), 8099–8103.

Nishimura, H., Nose, M., Hiai, H., Minato, N., & Honjo, T. (1999). Development of Lupus-like Autoimmune Diseases by Disruption of the PD-1 gene encoding an ITIM motif-carrying immunoreceptor. Immunity11, 141–151.

Freeman, G.J., Long, A.J., Iwai, Y., Bourque, K., Chernova, T., Nishimura, H., Fitz, L.J., Malenkovich, N., Okazaki, T., Byrne, M.C., Horton, H.F., Fouser, L., Carter, L., Ling, V., Bowman, M.R., Carreno, B.M., Collins, M., Wood, C.R. & Honjo, T. (2000). Engagement of the PD-1 immunoinhibitory receptor by a novel B7 family member leads to negative regulation of lymphocyte activation. J Exp Med192(7), 1027–1034.

Iwai, Y., Terawaki, S., & Honjo, T. (2005). PD-1 blockade inhibits hematogenous spread of poorly immunogenic tumor cells by enhanced recruitment of effector T cells. Int Immunol17(2), 133–144.

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