Nobel laureate and immunologist Tasuku Honjo on Tuesday called for a better environment in Japan for conducting research in the life sciences, saying more efforts are needed by both the private and public sectors in enabling researchers to come up with medical cures for illnesses such as cancer. The Kyoto University professor, who was awarded this year's Nobel Prize in medicine for his studies on cancer therapy that focus on controlling the immune system, told a meeting of ruling lawmakers at the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo about difficulties in the process that led to the development of the immunotherapeutic drug Opdivo. He spoke of his partnership with a Japanese pharmaceutical firm that didn't always work, his cooperation with a U.S. company that led to clinical trials for the drug and his recollection that the favorable results of the tests that came out in 2012 were not covered by the Japanese media. "Researchers around the world were surprised by the results because at the time people didn't think immunotherapy was effective in treating cancer," Honjo said. "Most of the patients who took part in the clinical trials were terminal cancer patients and the drug was effective for 20 to 30 percent of those patients. In addition, the effect continued even after administering of the medicine was stopped after half a year," he said.
STOCKHOLM – Japanese scientist Tasuku Honjo was awarded on Monday this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, for his discovery of a protein that contributed to the development of an immunotherapeutic drug against cancer. Honjo, a 76-year-old professor at Kyoto University, won the prize with U.S. national James Allison, the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute said. Honjo opened a pathway for a new cancer treatment by discovering the PD-1 protein, which is responsible for suppressing immune response. "I'm very honored and pleased to receive the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine," Honjo told a news conference following the announcement. His method of treating cancer -- by controlling the protein's function to suppress immunity -- led to the development of Nivolumab, a drug marketed as Opdivo and used against lung cancer and melanoma.
KYOTO – On the evening of Oct. 1, Dr. Tasuku Honjo was in his office at Kyoto University discussing a manuscript with two of his colleagues when a secretary came dashing in to announce there was a call from Sweden. Shortly afterward, details of that call would make news around the world: Honjo, 76, along with Dr. James Allison, 70, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, were jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel for Physiology or Medicine for their pioneering work in immunology -- work that has helped pave the way for a new generation of cancer treatment and drugs. In a recent interview in the same office where he took the Nobel Assembly's call, Honjo admitted his surprise -- it's not every day one is informed of a Nobel Prize win -- but he was also skeptical, for the same reasons. "The person who called me raised the issue (of prank calling), and so he asked me if I would like email confirmation during the call," Honjo said. "I said, 'Of course, yes.'"
OSAKA - Ono Pharmaceutical Co., which sells a cancer treatment based on the discoveries of Nobel laureate in medicine Tasuku Honjo, has decided to offer him a new proposal in an attempt to settle their dispute over the licensing fee for Opdivo, a company source said Saturday. Ono Pharmaceutical, which started selling Opdivo in 2014, will revise its earlier plan to donate up to ¥30 billion ($276 million) to Kyoto University, where Honjo is a distinguished professor, the source said, adding, "It won't be good for both sides if the conflict is prolonged. We need to have discussions." Honjo said last month that he would decide as early as July on whether to sue the Japanese pharmaceutical company to demand it raise the licensing fee for the drug, which is usually used to treat skin and lung cancer. The 2018 Nobel laureate has been dissatisfied with the fee under an agreement signed in 2006, arguing his current share of patent income is considerably low and the explanation provided by the company at the time was insufficient.