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Most recent 10 Nobel Prizes for medicine or physiology

  1. 2018-  James P Allison and Tasuku Honjo for Immune checkpoint therapy to treatments for advanced, deadly cancers.
  2. 2017- Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young for unravelling how bodies keep a circadian rhythm or body clock
  3. 2016 – Yoshinori Ohsumi for discovering how cells remain healthy by recycling waste.
  4. 2015 – William C Campbell, Satoshi Ōmura and Youyou Tu for anti-parasite drug discoveries.
  5. 2014 – John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser for discovering the brain’s navigating system.
  6. 2013 – James Rothman, Randy Schekman, and Thomas Sudhof for their discovery of how cells precisely transport material.
  7. 2012 – Two pioneers of stem cell research – John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka – were awarded the Nobel after changing adult cells into stem cells.
  8. 2011 – Bruce Beutler, Jules Hoffmann and Ralph Steinman shared the prize after revolutionising the understanding of how the body fights infection.
  9. 2010 – Robert Edwards for devising the fertility treatment IVF which led to the first “test tube baby” in July 1978.
  10. 2009 – Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak for finding the telomeres at the ends of chromosomes.

2018 Nobel prize for medicine goes to cancer immunotherapy

Two scientists who discovered how to fight cancer using the body’s immune system have won the 2018 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine.

The work, by Professor James P Allison from the US and Professor Tasuku Honjo from Japan, has led to treatments for advanced, deadly skin cancer.

Immune checkpoint therapy has revolutionised cancer treatment, said the prize-giving Swedish Academy.

Experts say it has proved to be “strikingly effective”.

Prof Allison, of the University of Texas, and Prof Honjo, of Kyoto University, will share the Nobel prize sum of nine million Swedish kronor – about $1.01 million or 870,000 euros.

Accepting the prize, Tasuku Honjo told reporters: “I want to continue my research … so that this immune therapy will save more cancer patients than ever.”

Prof Allison said: “It’s a great, emotional privilege to meet cancer patients who’ve been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade. They are living proof of the power of basic science, of following our urge to learn and to understand how things work.”

Treating the untreatable

Our immune system protects us from disease, but it has built-in safeguards to stop it from attacking our own tissue.

Some cancers can take advantage of those “brakes” and dodge the attack too.

Allison and Honjo, now both in their 70s, discovered a way to unleash our immune cells to attack tumours by turning off proteins that put the brakes on.

And that led to the development of new drugs which now offer hope to patients with advanced and previously untreatable cancer.

Immune checkpoint therapy is being used by the NHS to treat people with the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma.

It doesn’t work for everyone, but for some patients it appears to have worked incredibly well, getting rid of the tumour entirely, even after it had started to spread around the body.

Such remarkable results had never been seen before for patients like these.

Doctors have also been using the treatment to help some people with advanced lung cancer.

Prof Charles Swanton, from Cancer Research UK, congratulated the prize winners, saying: “Thanks to this groundbreaking work, our own immune system’s innate power against cancer has been realised and harnessed into treatments that continue to save the lives of patients. For cancers such as advanced melanoma, lung, and kidney, these immune-boosting drugs have transformed the outlook for many patients who had run out of options.

“The booming field of immunotherapy that these discoveries have precipitated is still relatively in its infancy, so it’s exciting to consider how this research will progress in the future and what new opportunities will arise.”

Medicine is the first of the Nobel Prizes awarded each year.

The literature prize will not be handed out this year, after the awarding body was affected by a sexual misconduct scandal.

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Cancer Stem Cell Theory

Research has shown that cancer cells are not all the same. Within a malignant tumor or among the circulating cancerous cells of a leukemia, there can be a variety of types of cells. The stem cell theory of cancer proposes that among all cancerous cells, a few act as stem cells that reproduce themselves and sustain the cancer, much like normal stem cells normally renew and sustain our organs and tissues. In this view, cancer cells that are not stem cells can cause problems, but they cannot sustain an attack on our bodies over the long term.

The idea that cancer is primarily driven by a smaller population of stem cells has important implications. For instance, many new anti-cancer therapies are evaluated based on their ability to shrink tumors, but if the therapies are not killing the cancer stem cells, the tumor will soon grow back (often with a vexing resistance to the previously used therapy). An analogy would be a weeding technique that is evaluated based on how low it can chop the weed stalks—but no matter how low the weeks are cut, if the roots aren’t taken out, the weeds will just grow back.

Another important implication is that it is the cancer stem cells that give rise to metastases (when cancer travels from one part of the body to another) and can also act as a reservoir of cancer cells that may cause a relapse after surgery, radiation or chemotherapy has eliminated all observable signs of a cancer.

One component of the cancer stem cell theory concerns how cancers arise. In order for a cell to become cancerous, it must undergo a significant number of essential changes in the DNA sequences that regulate the cell. Conventional cancer theory is that any cell in the body can undergo these changes and become a cancerous outlaw. But researchers at the Ludwig Center observe that our normal stem cells are the only cells that reproduce themselves and are therefore around long enough to accumulate all the necessary changes to produce cancer. The theory, therefore, is that cancer stem cells arise out of normal stem cells or the precursor cells that normal stem cells produce.

Thus, another important implication of the cancer stem cell theory is that cancer stem cells are closely related to normal stem cells and will share many of the behaviors and features of those normal stem cells. The other cancer cells produced by cancer stem cells should follow many of the rules observed by daughter cells in normal tissues. Some researchers say that cancerous cells are like a caricature of normal cells: they display many of the same features as normal tissues, but in a distorted way. If this is true, then we can use what we know about normal stem cells to identify and attack cancer stem cells and the malignant cells they produce. One recent success illustrating this approach is research on anti-CD47 therapy.

(Stanford, Ludwig Center)

JD.com’s Liu is still under Minneapolis police’s investigation due to sex assault allegations

Minneapolis police said Friday they’re still investigating sexual assault allegations made against a Chinese billionaire arrested last weekend in Minneapolis.

Liu Qiangdong, also known as Richard Liu, has returned to China since his arrest Friday night. He was released the following day without posting bail. The case has drawn international interest, but the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) declined to disclose details.

“Because this investigation is ongoing, the MPD will not be releasing any information regarding this case,” police spokeswoman Sgt. Darcy Horn said in a statement. “Once completed, the information gathered will be given to the County Attorney’s Office, which is standard procedure.”

Liu is the founder of Beijing-based JD.com, an e-commerce site with more than 300 million customers. The company said in a statement on the Chinese social media site Weibo that Liu was falsely accused while on a business trip, but that police found no misconduct and that he would continue his travels as planned.

“We will take the necessary legal action against false reporting or rumors,” the statement read.

Liu was in Minneapolis as a student in the U’s Carlson School of Management doctor of business administration China program, a university spokeswoman said Sunday. Program participants were in the Twin Cities from Aug. 26 through Sept. 1 as part of their residency. A source confirmed that the alleged victim was a Chinese student at the U.

Liu’s attorney, Joe Friedberg, said earlier this week that he did not expect further developments in the case and noted that police did not seize Liu’s passport.

Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder confirmed Monday that Liu had been released from police custody.

“We released him with the understanding that we were very confident we’d be able to reconnect with him as necessary in the investigation,” he said.

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