Research on AIDS Virus and Cancer Wins Nobel Medicine Prize
The Nobel Prize in medicine, announced today, will be shared among three scientists credited with the discovery of the viruses behind AIDS and cervical cancer.
One half of the award went to France’s Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for linking HIV to AIDS. The pair’s discovery was “one prerequisite for the current understanding of the biology of the disease and its antiretroviral treatment,” the Nobel citation said.
The study of the disease that would become known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome began in 1981, when US doctors observed an unusual cluster of deaths among young gay men in New York and California. In May 1983, a French team led by Montagnier, and including Barre-Sinoussi, described in the US journal Science a suspect virus found in a patient who had died of AIDS.
That groundbreaking research was aided by US researcher Robert Gallo’s insistence that the virus was indeed the cause of AIDS. After years of staking rival claims that eventually led to a legal and diplomatic dispute between France and the United States, both Montagnier and Gallo are co-credited with discovering that HIV cases AIDS. The Nobel citation, however, did not include mention of Gallo.
The other half of the prize was awarded to Harald zur Hausen of Germany for linking human papillomavirus to cervical cancer. In the 1970s and ‘80s, zur Hausen demonstrated that a form of cancer called Burkitt’s lymphoma was connected to Epstein-Barr syndrome. This was the first step in showing that HPV is a cause of cervical cancer.
“His discovery has led to characterization of the natural history of [HPV] infection, and understanding of mechanisms of HPV-induced carcinogenesis and the development of prophylactic vaccines against HPV acquisition,” the jury said of zur Hausen.
The formal awarding of the prizes will take place in Stockholm on Dec. 10.
Date of Publication
Cervical Cancer HIV/AIDS HPV Research
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