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The Nobel Prize of Medicine, 2018.

This is how science works: it does not respond to big shouts of “war on cancer” but to the hard work in the laboratories of thousands of scientists looking at how the body works. And from there, from the understanding of the small intricate details of how things work, come solutions to big life and death problems.

In this case, treatments for melanoma and lung cancer were developed after James Allison’s (USA) and Tasuku Honjo’s (Japan) laboratories elucidated the role of proteins that act as brakes on the immune system and prevent the body’s immune system, specifically the T-cells, from attacking cancer cells effectively. Understanding the mechanism allows for inhibition of those molecular brakes, and the treatment, known as immune checkpoint blockade, has actually cured cancer for many patients.

This therapy does not work for all cancers, not even for most cancers, because each cancer is different, but it is a great start. We need less grandstanding and more hard work if we want to solve complex problems.