Two researchers, James P. Allison, chair of the department of immunology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas, United States and Tasuku Honjo, Professor at Kyoto University, Japan have found a potent but natural way to fight cancer, one of the most dreaded diseases in history.
Both scholars were awarded the Nobel prize in medicine on October 1, 2018 for their ground breaking discoveries.
Working independently, Allison isolated a protein, CTLA-4 while Honjo studied a protein called PD-1. These proteins, collectively referred to as “brakes” are said to regulate the immune system and keep it from being over active or too aggressive.
T-cells are the weapons of the immune system. But if left unchecked and become over active, they could attack even healthy cells that they may have mistakenly considered foreign and a danger to the body. It is the job of the two proteins, discovered by the Nobel winners, to act as checks or brakes on the immune system.
In order to temporarily release those breaks, an antibody can be used to target the two proteins, shut them down and allow the immune system to go all out to attack a cancerous tumour wherever it may be in the body.
These discoveries have led to a new form of immunotherapy treatment approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Popular Mechanics reports that new
“drugs based on immunotherapy, such as Keytruda, Yervoy, Opdivo, and Tecentriq, have prolonged the lives of hundreds of people with cancers that would be otherwise incurable.”
But how soon will these drugs be available for use in Nigeria and the rest of Africa that appear to be constantly far away from all breaking technologies in various fields remains to be seen.
Even if available, will they be affordable given that they are manufactured in the US, a country known for unusual high cost of drugs.