The Nobel Prize for Medicine 2018 being awarded to immune researchers Allison and Honjo is a further milestone for modern cancer therapy with the focus on the body’s powers to heal its self. Previously, in 2011, three immunologists were recognized for their work which revolutionized our understanding of the immune system and opened new doors to fighting cancer: Steinman described the functioning of dendritic cells and Hoffmann and Beutler discovered that a successful immune response requires danger signals. Our immunotherapy and vaccine production at the IOZK is based on these discoveries.
At the same time, the IOZK has been applying the principles of the basic research for which the current Nobel Prize was awarded for the last two years – they act as protection against tumor-specific immune cells that can attack tumor cells. The so-called checkpoint inhibitors improve the effectiveness of our therapy at the IOZK while also creating conditions for the successful application of these medications. However, checkpoint inhibitor antibody therapies have only been able to help a small number of patients, namely those who have already developed an immune reaction against the tumor cells. In certain cases we can use the checkpoint inhibitor antibodies so that the tumor-specific activated immune system successfully destroys the tumor cells.