Nobel Prize 2018: The Victory March of Immunotherapy

(image modified from

Autumn has arrived. Time to walk along streets lined with colorful leaves, collect chestnuts (yes, plural, because one can never have too many chestnuts in his or her coat pockets), drink a warm cup of tea, and make oneself comfortable on the sofa. Well, and to decide who will be this year’s Nobel Prize winners! On Monday, October 1st 2018, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2018 jointly to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.” James P. Allison studied the T-cell protein CTLA-4, which he observed to act as a brake on T cells. In his approach, he used an anti-CTLA-4-antibody that binds to and – at the same time – blocks its antigen. Blocking the brake eventually unleashed the immune system, which could then successfully attack cancer cells. Tasuku Honjo discovered PD-1, another protein expressed on the surface of T cells, that, similar to CTLA-4, functions as a T-cell brake, albeit by a different mechanism. The approaches of Allison and Honjo are called “checkpoint therapy” and have sustainably revolutionized cancer treatment.

Dr. Isis Ludwig-Portugall, group leader at the Institute of Experimental Immunology of Bonn University, got the exciting chance to attend a talk given by novel Nobel Laureate James P. Allison at the International Conference of Immunology in Melbourne, Australia, two years ago. Click here to read her blog-article on this topic. Here, you can find another article written by our guest-author Meri Rogava, who takes us back to the roots of immunotherapy and describes further approaches that involve basic elements like oxygen and potassium. Ultimately, click here to read a blog-post by our guest-author Julia Reinhardt, who gives an outline on the development of tumor immunology and explains how she became involved with this field.

The IITB-Blog – always a good read!

Sophie Schonauer