The 2018 #NobelPrize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded jointly to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo "for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation".
Both laureates studied proteins that prevent the body and its main immune cells, known as T-cells, from attacking tumor cells effectively. Releasing the brake allowed immune cells to attack tumors, he found.
Although the concept of using the immune system against cancer arose in the 19th century, initial treatments based on the approach were only modestly effective. Such treatment is also called "checkpoint therapy", a term that inspired the name of the Checkpoints, a musical group of cancer researchers in which Allison plays harmonica.
Mr Allison, a professor at the University of Texas, and Mr Honjo, a professor at Kyoto University, in 2014 won the Tang Prize, touted as Asia's version of the Nobels, for their research. For many scientists, he said, a driving motivation "is simply to push the frontiers of knowledge".
Their breakthroughs take advantage of the immune system's ability to attack cancer cells by releasing the brakes on immune cells.
"For more than 100 years, scientists attempted to engage the immune system in the fight against cancer".
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"Until the discoveries made by the 2018 Medicine Laureates, progress into clinical development was modest".
Allison, 70, is now chair of the department of immunology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
"In some patients, this therapy is remarkably effective", Jeremy Berg, editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals, told the AP.
The winners of this year's physics prize will be announced on Tuesday, followed by the chemistry prize on Wednesday.
The announcement in Helsinki was the first of several prizes to be given out this week.
The literature prize will not be handed out this year after the awarding body was hit by a sexual misconduct scandal. The Nobel prize can only be awarded to individuals, but it is important to remember that others would have been involved in the discoveries.