Can­cer R&D stars Jim Al­li­son, Tasuku Hon­jo award­ed No­bel prize for im­munother­a­py dis­cov­er­ies

Im­munother­a­py pi­o­neers James Al­li­son and Tasuku Hon­jo has joint­ly won the 2018 No­bel prize in phys­i­ol­o­gy and med­i­cine “for their dis­cov­ery of can­cer ther­a­py by in­hi­bi­tion of neg­a­tive im­mune reg­u­la­tion.”

Al­li­son, now a pro­fes­sor at MD An­der­son and an af­fil­i­ate of the Park­er In­sti­tute, came to fame for his pi­o­neer­ing idea to un­leash a T cell at­tack on can­cer cells by block­ing the pro­tein CT­LA-4. Hon­jo, a long­time fac­ul­ty at Ky­oto Uni­ver­si­ty, is cred­it­ed with the dis­cov­ery of PD-1 on the sur­face of T cells — which has been the ba­sis of most check­point ther­a­pies cur­rent­ly on the mar­ket.

While care­ful to note their ad­verse ef­fects and short­com­ings, the No­bel As­sem­bly at Karolin­s­ka In­sti­tutet ap­plauds the two sci­en­tists for achiev­ing land­mark dis­cov­er­ies in the fight against can­cer.

For more than 100 years sci­en­tists at­tempt­ed to en­gage the im­mune sys­tem in the fight against can­cer. Un­til the sem­i­nal dis­cov­er­ies by the two lau­re­ates, progress in­to clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment was mod­est. Check­point ther­a­py has now rev­o­lu­tion­ized can­cer treat­ment and has fun­da­men­tal­ly changed the way we view how can­cer can be man­aged.

Al­li­son went on to spear­head the de­vel­op­ment of an CT­LA-block­ing an­ti­body called ip­il­i­mum­ab, which is now sold by Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb un­der the brand name Yer­voy to treat metasta­t­ic melanoma. He con­tin­ues to be ac­tive in a new wave of biotechs search­ing for drugs elud­ed by check­point ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing Neon Ther­a­peu­tics and Jounce Ther­a­peu­tics.

Al­most three decades af­ter Al­li­son and Hon­jo first made their dis­cov­er­ies in the lab, check­point With six PD-1/L1 agents now on the mar­ket — Re­gen­eron and Sanofi got a quick OK for their lat­est con­tender just this past Fri­day — the glob­al pipeline is brim­ming with at least 163 PD-1/L1 in­hibitors and hun­dreds more im­muno-on­col­o­gy drug can­di­dates, many tar­get­ing CT­LA-4 in com­bo stud­ies.

A high-pro­file fig­ure at sci­en­tif­ic con­fer­ences, Al­li­son has a le­gion of friends and col­leagues hap­py to cheer the news.

I’m just thrilled for him, as a friend and as a sci­en­tist,” said Fred Rams­dell, Ph.D., vice pres­i­dent of re­search at the Park­er In­sti­tute for Can­cer Im­munother­a­py and a col­league of James Al­li­son’s for decades. “It’s re­al­ly grat­i­fy­ing to see that the No­bel Com­mit­tee chose to award the prize for the fun­da­men­tal re­search that ul­ti­mate­ly led to a par­a­digm shift in clin­i­cal can­cer ther­a­py that has saved so many lives.”

Al­li­son and Hon­jo will share the prize — rough­ly $1 mil­lion (9 mil­lion Swedish kro­nor) — and de­liv­er lec­tures in Stock­holm at the No­bel cer­e­mo­ny this De­cem­ber.


Im­age: Jim Al­li­son and Tasuku Hon­jo. MD AN­DER­SON, UCSD

Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

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I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Am­gen, Al­ler­gan biosim­i­lar of Roche's block­buster Rit­ux­an clears an­oth­er US piv­otal study 

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Using a laptop borrowed from his former employer, South London’s St George’s Hospital, Sir Andrew Dillon set about establishing NICE — launched by the then health secretary Frank Dobson — in 1999.  On Thursday, the UK cost-effectiveness watchdog said its first and only chief executive — Dillon — is stepping down in March 2020.

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