Nobel-prize winning cancer research

The Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine, awarded annually, is a highly respected science award. For many years, the prize has been awarded to cancer researchers.

In 2019, the prize was awarded to British molecular biologist Peter J. Ratcliffe and US physicians Gregg L. Semenza and William Kaelin for examining cellular oxygenation. The ability of cancer cells to adapt to changes in oxygen concentration is widely known. Many cancers thrive in low oxygen levels. Nobel-prize discoveries have led to a better understanding of how cells respond to scarcity of oxygen, and thus we have seen development of new drugs and therapies to combat cancer.

Also in 2018, the award went to cancer researchers. American professor James P. Allison and japanese Tasuku Honjo shared the award for their findings on the importance of cancer immunotherapy. The functioning of the immune system is vital to the cancer patient and all the ways that this system can be improved are to the patient's advantage. Allison developed an antibody to the important defense cells of the immune system, which blocked the inhibitory effects of certain proteins and thus made the defense cells attack the cancer cells vigorously. Traditionally, cancer has been treated with surgery, radiation and anti-cancer drugs. Thanks to research by Allison and Honjo, for example, immunotherapy has been added to cancer therapies in recent years. This therapy is already in use, but it is a terribly expensive.

In 2008, German virus researcher Harald zur Hausen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering carcinogenic papilloma viruses. In 1989, US physicians John Michael Bishop and Harold E. Varmus received an award for research on carcinogenic retroviruses. Tumor-producing viruses and hormone therapy for prostate cancer were worth the Nobel Prize in 1966. The award went to American researchers Charles Brenton Huggins and Peyton Rous.

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Typical cancer drugs are chemotherapic agents (cytostatics), which intend to destroy the malignant cells. Cytostatic agents inhibit cell division and thus cause cell death. Cancer medications can be given to reduce or destroy an existing tumor and to counteract a malignant tumor.

Traditional cancer treatment

Cancer is the subject of intensive research and new therapies are constantly evolving. In this section, we focus on the traditional ways of treating cancer. If you are interested in complementary and integrative cancer treatments, you can find this information elsewhere on our website.

How does cancer develop?

Cancer is thought to develop as a consequence of genetic damage in normal cells. The damage can be congenital (10-15 percent of cancer cases) or be caused by, for example, external factors. The cell contains genes which in turn contain germ plasma (DNA) that determines how the cell’s proteins are to be produced. Cancer develops when a string of mutations take place in genes that govern the cell’s ability to grow and divide. These mutations often lead to an overstimulation of cell growth a