SOURCE: Tang Prize

April 03, 2016 21:42 ET

Tang Prize Laureate on the State of Cancer Immunotherapy

TAIPEI, TAIWAN--(Marketwired - Apr 3, 2016) - In its second year of promoting education in biology, the Tang Prize Lecture series at Experimental Biology will take place on April 5, 2016, in San Diego. There the 2014 Tang Prize Laureate in Biopharmaceutical Science Tasuku Honjo will address an audience of 300-plus on cancer immunology and his work on the inhibitory receptor PD-1. Chien Shu, National Medal of Science awardee and director of the Institute of Engineering in Medicine at UC San Diego, will host the event, with Jenn-Chuan Chern representing the Tang Prize Foundation as its CEO.

The Tang Prize, an international award founded in 2012 by Samuel Yin, awards achievements in four categories: Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law. Among the five inaugural laureates awarded in 2014, Tasuku Honjo and James P. Allison were recognized jointly in Biopharmaceutical Science for their respective discoveries of PD-1 and CTLA-4 and their applications in cancer immunotherapy.

PD-1 was discovered by Honjo's lab at Kyoto University in 1992. He later established PD-1 as an inhibitory regulator on T-cells and that blocking it was equivalent to "taking the foot off the break" of the immune response. Drugs that follow this basic approach have been approved by the US FDA, and have seen significant success in the treatment of a subset of cancers, ranging from melanoma to ovarian.

Inhibitor drugs which target immune checkpoints, PD-1 and CTLA-4 among them, have provided many sufferers with a mode of therapy safer than nonspecific treatments, like chemotherapy, which tend to target both cancer and healthy cells. One of the notable examples of the new treatment's success is Jimmy Carter. The former US President was recently given a clean bill of health thanks to immunotherapy drugs. In Carter's case, it was a brain tumor; but the treatment has seen promising response rates from other cancer types. While it is not a definitive victory over cancer, it does suggest a turning point in the war. The article "Closing in On Cancer" in the March 5, 2016 issue of New Scientist compares it to the discovery of penicillin, which marked a paradigm shift in the history of medicine.

It is contributions like those of Honjo and Allison that are recognized by the Tang Prize. Recipients are chosen irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, and gender, with each prize category receiving approximately US$1.24 million in cash in addition to a US$310,000 grant, which must be destined to a project that invests in the future of the field.

This year marks the second awarding of the prize; the newest round of awardees are to be announced on June 18-21, 2016, and will receive the medal and cash prize at the award ceremony on September 25 in Taipei.

For more information on the Tang Prize and its laureates, please visit www.tang-prize.org

About Tang Prize
Dr. Samuel Yin, chairman of Ruentex Group, founded the Tang Prize in December of 2012 as an extension of the supreme value his family placed on education. Harkening back to the golden age of the Tang Dynasty in Chinese history, the Tang Prize seeks to be an inspiring force for people working in all corners of the world.

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