James P. Allison, Tasuku Honjo jointly awarded 2018 Nobel Medicine Prize for cancer therapy
Updated 17:05, 04-Oct-2018
By Hu Yiwei and Gong Zhe
‍The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison of the US and Tasuku Honjo of Japan for discoveries leading to breakthroughs in cancer therapy, the Nobel committee in Stockholm announced on Monday.
This is the first prize honored by the committee in 2018, with a cash reward worth nine million Swedish krona (one million US dollars).
The award is "for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation," the award-giving body said.

Release the brake

Every human has an immune system to eliminate threats and the two scientists' discovered that the system has brakes to stop it from working too hard.
But when it comes to cancer cells, things get complicated.
Cancer cells used to be healthy cells that were friendly to the body, so the immune system essentially can't distinguish the good cells from the bad.
This is one of the reasons why cancer is so hard to cure.
Screenshot from the Nobel prize official Twitter handle

Screenshot from the Nobel prize official Twitter handle

As the research of the two laureates described, there are ways to manually release the brakes, and stimulate the immune system to deal with the cancer cells.
This is what the doctors know as the "immune checkpoint therapy" nowadays.
"Until the discoveries made by the 2018 Medicine Laureates, progress into clinical development was modest," claimed the Nobel prize official Twitter handle about the importance of the discoveries.
Last year's medicine prize went to three US scientists who unraveled the molecular mechanisms that control our internal body clocks.

Fun facts of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

- The prize has been awarded 108 times since 1901, of which 39 prizes were clinched by one scientist, 32 shared by two candidates and 37 by three.
- So far, no one has ever won the prize twice during their lifetime. Sigmund Freud, an Austrian psychiatrist and psychologist who gained worldwide fame with his book The Interpretation of Dreams, was nominated 32 times for the prize but never won.
- There have been 214 laureates for the prize as of 2017, with only 12 women. Chinese pharmacologist Tu Youyou, who won the prize in 2015, was the first Chinese scientist to win the Nobel Prize for scientific research carried out in China.
- The average age that these laureates won at is 58, with Frederick Grant Banting, a Canadian physician who won at the age of 32 for the discovery of insulin in 1923, being the youngest and American virologist Francis Peyton Rous, who won aged 87 in 1966, was the oldest.
- Two couples were bestowed with the prize at the same time in history. Carl and Gerty Cori won the prize in 1947 for the discovery of the catalytic conversion of glycogen, and the Norwegian couple Edvard and May-Britt Moser won it in 2017.
(CGTN's Gao Yun also contributed to the story.)