Oregon doctor helped with breakthrough cancer research

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PORTLAND, Ore. — The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded Monday to two cancer doctors for their research on Immunotherapy.

Though the winners aren’t local, the doctor behind the clinical trial for their breakthrough drug is.

Immunotherapy is a treatment which uses the body, or the immune system, to fight diseases and heal itself. It’s unlike chemotherapy, for example.

The doctors who were awarded the prize Monday, James Allison and Tasuku Honjo, have created “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy,” according to the Nobel committee.

Doctor Walter Urba at the Providence Cancer Institute led the international clinical trial for one of the winning doctor’s drugs.

Urba’s research eventually led to FDA approval. He says they celebrated locally after finding out about the winners of the prize on Twitter.

“It wasn’t quite like Dr. Allison’s celebration, where they were in a hotel room with champagne,” Urba said. “We had coffee and bagels and congratulated ourselves in being part of this wonderful journey that’s taken Immunotherapy from something that some people were interested in to mainstream therapy for patients with cancer.”

Monday’s Nobel announcement, Providence leaders say, is an enormous acknowledgment of the effects Immunotherapy can have on cancer patients and on the focus of their research at Providence.

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