Nobel Prize in Medicine has local OHC connection
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded on Monday to James P. Allison, PhD, of the United States and Tasuku Honjo, MD, PhD, of Japan for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer, a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs, called immunotherapy, and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options.
And it has a very local connection.
“This news really hit home for all of us at OHC because for many years we have participated, and continue to, in the clinical trials that tested this new approach,” said David M. Waterhouse, MD, MPH, co-director of research at OHC. “We literally helped prove that immunotherapy drugs like Opdivo and Keytruda and Yervoy do work. We have numerous patients with lung cancer who’ve been taking these drugs for 3 – 4 years and even longer. Not only are they living longer than the average 6-to-12 month prognosis, they are living better, side-effect free lives. Some tell us they forget they have lung cancer.”
Before Dr. Allison’s and Dr. Honjo’s work, cancer treatment consisted of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal treatments. A statement from the Nobel committee acknowledged their accomplishments as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.”
“With the Nobel Prize award, it’ll bring more attention and support to Dr. Allison’s and Dr. Honjo’s work,” Dr. Waterhouse added. “I think we’ve just scratched the surface of immunotherapy and how our own immune system can be allowed to do its job in attacking cancer cells. I hope in my lifetime to see this successfully applied to all types of cancer, especially those for which we have very little treatment options today.”
The drugs based on their work belong to a class called checkpoint inhibitors, which block proteins that stop the immune system from attacking the cancer cells. The first ones approved by the Food and Drug Administration were ipilimumab (brand name Yervoy), nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda). Others have since come to market.
“At OHC, our doctors are relentless when it comes to finding new and better treatments and getting patients access to those treatments,” said Randolph Broun, MD, OHC President and Chairman of the Board. “We are blessed to have a dedicated team of researchers who are the forefront of treatments like immunotherapy. And we are also incredibly fortunate to have an entire group of doctors who keep themselves abreast of the latest treatments and clinical trials, and enroll their eligible patients in those trials in order to give them access to treatments like Opdivo. It’s an indescribable feeling to see the work of people like Dr. Allison and Honjo not only be honored world-wide, but also applied right here in our hometown, helping our patients and our friends and our neighbors.”
OHC (Oncology Hematology Care) has been fighting cancer on the front lines for more than three decades. We are the region’s leading experts in the treatment of nearly every form of adult cancer and complex blood disorder. OHC offers the latest medical, gynecologic and radiation therapy, and is always seeking better treatment options through participation in clinical trials. OHC is certified by the American Society for Clinical Oncology in the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative Certification Program, is an accredited Oncology Medical Home, and is one of only 179 practices nationally to be accepted into the Medicare Oncology Care Model. At its heart, our approach to cancer care is simple – to surround you with everything you need so you can focus on what matters most: beating cancer. For more information about services and careers at OHC, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit ohcare.com.