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Nobel Prize spotlights the promise of cancer immunotherapy

October 4, 2018

Up close picture of doctor with stethoscope

The Nobel Prize in medicine this week went to two researchers credited with opening up an exciting avenue of cancer treatment – immunotherapy – where the body’s natural disease-fighting agents can be unleashed to fight cancer cells. In simple terms, the prizewinning researchers discovered ways to take the foot off “brakes” in the immune system.


As the New York Times explained, James P. Allison of the United States and Tasuku Honjo of Japan, “working separately, showed in the 1990s how certain proteins act as ‘brakes’ on the immune system’s T-cells, limiting their ability to attack cancer cells, and that suppressing those proteins could transform the body’s ability to fight cancer.”


As the Nobel committee said, “The seminal discoveries by the two Laureates constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer.” Their work has led to the advent of “immune checkpoint therapy,” which “has fundamentally changed the outcome for certain groups of patients with advanced cancer” and constituted “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.” Positive results have been documented in patients who have lung cancer, renal cancer, lymphoma and melanoma.


Until recently, cancer treatment has consisted of mainly surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.


Biospecimens play an important role in immunotherapy


Blood and tumor samples are important in the development of immunotherapy. For example, Allison leads the immunotherapy platform for MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program, which conducts immune monitoring by analyzing tumor samples before, during and after treatment, aiming to understand why these drugs work for some patients but not for others.


At iSpecimen, we’ve long played a role in the development of immunotherapy. For example, we provided very rare tissue, fluids and cells to a biotech company working on cancer treatments. These were samples from lung cancer patients who had been treated with checkpoint inhibitors (drugs based on the Nobel winners’ work). We were able to procure frozen cancerous human tissue, corresponding normal adjacent tissue, and matched sets of plasma and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from these types of patients.


Procure biospecimens efficiently, with compliance

If you need tissue samples, biofluids or viable cells for your immunotherapy research or any other biomedical area, join the iSpecimen Marketplace for free, and find samples in just seconds. Advanced search functionality can help you find the exact specimen match you need. Request a quote for specific biospecimens you find, request a custom collection, or add specimens to your “Watch List.”


When you place an order, you can track it, monitor the shipment, and manage compliance documents all from your centralized Marketplace dashboard. Here’s a brief overview to show how easy it is to get started.


Whether your work is destined for a major prize or “simply” contributing to improving lives, we are committed to helping you get the biospecimens you need to perform your work.

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