Cancer Immunotherapy Acknowledged with 2018 Nobel Prize!

In what many are hailing as a paradigm shift in the treatment of cancer, The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison of the United States and Tasuku Honjo of Japan for their cutting-edge, exceptional work in developing cancer immunotherapy treatments. Allison, age 70, is from Alice, Texas and currently works as an immunologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Honjo, age 76, was born in Kyoto, Japan and works as an immunologist and researcher at Kyoto University.

What makes this more amazing is that Allison and Honjo pursued their belief in the power of  immunotherapy when many of their colleagues had given up on it.

CHIPSA Hospital applauds Allison and Honjo for their steadfast pursuit to getting us closer to a cure. Their breakthrough has brought immunotherapy to the forefront after decades of criticism, and has allowed for the classification of treatments which have brought lasting remissions in many patients who had run out of options.

What is Immunotherapy?

The immune system is designed to defend the body from foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria, but malignant tumors usually skate by unharmed because the body has a hard time recognizing them as foreign. Since cancerous cells are created within the body, the immune system usually just ignores them in the same way that it ignores healthy cells.

In order to combat this issue, researchers have been developing immunotherapy treatments for the last several years. Rather than directly attack cancerous tumors with a traditional approach like full-dose radiation and chemotherapy, immunotherapy is trying to allow the body to use its natural ability to heal itself. This involves finding ways to get the immune system to recognize cancerous tumors as foreign and attack them. Immunotherapy has not only been successful at treating difficult cancers, it is also easier on the body and causes less side effects than traditional treatments.

The Prize-Winning Therapies

Both Allison and Honjo came up with strategies that allow the body to release T-cells, which are crucial in protecting the immune system. In order to accomplish this, they used antibodies, which are proteins designed to get in the way of other proteins. Allison’s research started in the early 1990s when he was learning about CTLA-4, a protein that lives in the outer membrane of an active T-cell. CTLA-4 functions in the same way as an “off switch.” During various studies, Allison and his team discovered that injecting antibodies that interfere with CTLA-4 allowed T-cells to start multiplying. When T-cells multiply at a quick pace, especially if they are diverse in nature, it’s more likely that a T-cell will be produced that can recognize and kill a cancerous tumor. This therapy relies on chance – if enough T-cells are produced, eventually one will be able to fight off the cancer.

Honjo’s research is similar in nature, but his therapy is more direct. He and his team discovered a similar “off-switch” called PD-1. PD-1 cells usually work to make sure that T-cells don’t get too overactive by shutting off their activity so that they don’t become overtired. If they overexert themselves, they aren’t able to effectively fix the issues that come up in the body. This same situation can also happen when cancer has been in the body for a long period of time.

In some cases, cancers can encourage PD-1 to stop T-cells and lower the immune system’s ability to attack the tumor. Honjo figured out that when antibodies are injected that interfere with PD1, cancers were unable to turn off the T-cells. The T-cells could then fight off the cancerous cells.

Why Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy as an approach to cancer offers a different route from conventional chemo and radiation. Immunotherapy aims to harness the body’s own powerful immune system to eliminate cancer.  The immune system produces specialized disease-fighting cells that circulate throughout the body, continually seeking out and destroying “foreign” agents.

Cancer cells may elude detection from the immune system because of their similarities to healthy tissues. Cancer immunotherapies attempt to override cancer’s evasive strategies to ensure that a powerful, precise, and adaptable immune attack is focused on tumors anywhere in the body. Immunotherapy isn’t believed to be as harmful on the body like full-dose chemotherapy and radiation. Many immunotherapies don’t cause as much harm to body tissue, so in theory, there may be fewer side effects. There are many kinds of immunotherapies that stem from Allison and Honjo’s research that are currently treating melanoma, bladder cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, and lung cancer.

Immunotherapy at CHIPSA

CHIPSA Hospital has long believed that the key to healing from cancer lies in utilizing integrative therapies to harness the power of the immune system.

Since 1979, we have been on the forefront of advanced immunological therapies, combining the latest in conventional and natural therapies. Our “Enhanced Gerson Protocol” now includes cutting-edge immunotherapies like checkpoint inhibitors, dendritic cell, and innate immune stimulating treatments. CHIPSA is also using lower doses of conventional oncological medications to cause damage to cancer cells, while at the same time stimulating the innate immune system to recognize the danger signals and attack the cancer cells.

Stage 4 cancer is a very complicated disease and there is no easy answer for it.

We are very pleased with James P. Allison’s and Tasuku Honjo’s work, and look forward to the possibilities in the advancement of cancer treatment as more scientists and researchers are open to what immunotherapy brings.

Editor’s Note: To see the 2018 CHIPSA Cancer Treatment Protocol, which includes many immunotherapies, please check out the following article that details our latest advancements in treatment:  Click Here To Learn More