What season is it? For us nerdy science dudes, it�s Nobel season. Dave, did you know the Physiology or Medicine Nobel has been awarded one hundred nine times since it began in nineteen-oh-one. I�m proud to say that overall, U.S. scientists have earned over three hundred twenty five Nobels in all categories ranking first in all prize areas except for Literature.
This year Dr. James Allison and Tasuku Honjo were awarded the Nobel in Physiology or Medicine. Their work began decades ago on the immune system and in the nineteen-nineties, Dr. Allison identified something called checkpoints inside T cells.
T cells are immune cells and these checkpoints are a way for the immune system to turn itself down so that normal cells are not attacked. However, cancer cells use these checkpoints to avoid being killed. Dr. Allison found that switching off the T cell�s checkpoints allowed these cells to begin attacking cancer cells.
Studies in animals showed positive results and the same was seen in human trials. Dr. Honjo also identified a checkpoint, albeit a different one and developed checkpoint inhibiting drugs that also led to the removal of cancer cells.
Today, there are many checkpoint inhibitor clinical trials against a variety of cancers which offers us hope that we�ll one day find a cancer cure.
The Nobels remind us of the global leadership that the US has in advancing science and technology. But as China and India invest heavily in these areas, we�ll see them pushing to lead instead. If the US wants to maintain its position, it must continue to support research and development, including basic research.
For more information…
Nobel Prize Facts
On 27 November 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace � the Nobel Prizes. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden�s central bank) established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel...
The Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies
The Nobel Laureates take center stage in Stockholm on 10 December, when they receive the Nobel Medal and Diploma from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden...