Honjo, Tasuku

Honjo, Tasuku, 1942–, Japanese immunologist, Ph.D. Kyoto Univ., 1975. Honjo was a member of the medical faculty at the Univ. of Tokyo from 1974 to 1979 and a professor at the Osaka School of Medicine from 1979 to 1984, when he joined the faculty at Kyoto Univ. He was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with James P. Allison for their discoveries of cancer treatments that act by removing brakes on the immune system's ability to respond to cancer cells. Honjo's laboratory discovered the protein PD-1, which acts as off-switch for the immune cells known as T cells by stopping the T cells' activity when the T cells appear ineffective; some cancer cells can stimulate PD-1 and shut off the body's immune response to them. Using antibodies that act against PD-1, Honjo enabled the T cells to kill cancer cells. Immunotherapies based on Honjo's and Allison's research, known as checkpoint inhibitors, have been approved for the treatment of a number of cancers.

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