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Nobel winner Tasuku Honjo sees bigger role for immunotherapy in battling cancer

The Japan Times

STOCKHOLM – Japanese scientist Tasuku Honjo, who jointly won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his research on the immune system that contributed to cancer treatments, said Thursday that he believes most cancers will become treatable with immunotherapy by 2050. The 76-year-old professor and deputy director-general at the Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study spoke at a news conference at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, joined by American scientist James Allison, who shared the prize. The discovery by Honjo and Allison -- on methods to inhibit negative immune regulation -- established a new principle for cancer treatment that stimulates the inherent ability of the human immune system to unleash attacks on tumor cells, according to the Nobel Assembly. Honjo said it may become possible to contain the growth of most cancer cells through such treatment, even if cancer cannot be completely eliminated, as he discussed the effectiveness of combination therapy using drugs in the development of which he and Allison were involved. The Kyoto native and his team discovered PD-1, a protein on immune cells that operates as a brake on the immune system.


Nobel laureate Tasuku Honjo hopes Japan invests more in science

The Japan Times

KYOTO – Nobel Prize-winning scientist Tasuku Honjo voiced hope on Tuesday that Japan would invest more in science, a day after he was chosen for this year's award in physiology or medicine along with American James Allison for their studies on cancer therapy. "I was able to prove that it is not rare for fundamental research to lead to applications," Honjo, 76, said at a news conference held at Kyoto University, where he is currently a professor. "Science is an investment for the future." News that Honjo became the 26th Japanese Nobel Prize winner was met with a shower of praise from cancer patient groups and the Japanese government on Monday. "Cancer patients are being saved by (the new cancer medicine) Opdivo, which originated from a study carried out by the Japanese researcher.


Japanese professor Tasuku Honjo wins Nobel in medicine, together with U.S. scientist, for work on cancer therapy

The Japan Times

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.


Nobel laureate Tasuku Honjo calls for a better environment in Japan for life science research

The Japan Times

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.


Nobel Prize winner Tasuku Honjo calls for better-funded and more imaginative pharma industry in Japan

The Japan Times

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.'"