Last Monday, Dr. James Allison and Dr. Tasuku Honjo won the Nobel Prize in the category of Physiology or Medicine for discoveries leading to the development of cancer immunotherapy drugs. As MSK’s Dr. Jedd Wolchok told the Associated Press, “An untold number of lives … have been saved by the science that they pioneered.” Dr. Allison, now at MD Anderson Cancer Center, worked on this research in part while chair of the Immunology Program at MSK.
Two articles from Vox put the research into a larger context. The first explains that with Dr. Allison and Dr. Honjo’s findings, up to 15-20 percent of patients with advanced melanoma and lung cancer can now benefit from precise checkpoint inhibitor therapies that target the proteins CTLA-4 (studied by Dr. Allison) and PD-1 (studied by Dr. Honjo). MSK’s Dr. Michael Postow explains in the article that next steps in immunotherapy research include determining who the therapies will help and why they don’t help the majority of patients.
The second Vox piece looks at the economics of checkpoint inhibitor therapy. While immunotherapies save lives, they also can cost more than $100,000 per patient. The article includes this chart from MSK’s Dr. Peter Bach:
For more of Dr. Bach’s economic comparisons, visit the website of MSK’s Center for Health Policy & Outcomes.