Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

  • Top Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018: Nobel Prize for Medicine Winners

Top Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018: Nobel Prize for Medicine Winners

Nov 19 2018 Read 1216 Times

2018 has been a year full of exciting breakthroughs and discoveries for the world of science. This 6-part series will celebrate just a few of the most impressive discoveries.

First off, we’re going to take a look at the work that gained James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo a place in history with a Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology. The two immunotherapy researchers were awarded the esteemed prize earlier this year for discovering how we can utilise the body’s immune system to fight certain types of cancer.

How does it work?

In the past, there has been a lot of research carried out into the world of immunotherapy and just as many attempts to use the treatment to prevent and fight certain cancers.

Dr Allison and Dr Honjo successfully formed a link between immunotherapy and cancer treatment by figuring out exactly how the different cells interact with one another.

The medicine works by targeting T-cells in the body, a type of white blood cell that can identify and kill cancerous cells in the body. These cells can only work once they have been activated, usually by some form of medicine.

Cancerous cells avoid destruction by shutting down the immune checkpoint on the T-cell, meaning it cannot destroy the dangerous cells. This new treatment, known as checkpoint inhibitors, can block the checkpoint, meaning it cannot be shut down by the cancerous cells, leaving the T-cells free to destroy damaging cells in the body.

New hope

Their pioneering work can help to produce research into new medicines that could help to save thousands of lives around the world. It is important to note, however, that this type of treatment doesn’t work for everyone, and can only be used for certain cancers, including lung, kidney and bladder.

The treatment can have severe side effects and can be expensive, meaning it isn’t an option for some cancer patients. However, for those that opt for the immunotherapy treatment, it can be a life-saving alternative, when other medicines and treatments have proven unsuccessful.

Find out more

2018 has been an important year for many areas of the scientific world, including medicine. This discovery, by Dr Allison and Dr Honjo, could save thousands of lives in the future and may develop into a key area of cancer treatment.

Be sure to check out our next post, about the winners of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry – Frances Arnold, George P Smith and Gregory Winter. Or, for a more in-depth read, read our article ‘Using Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) to Track Free Radicals in the Environment’.

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