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Thousands of NHS patients to access trials of personalised cancer ‘vaccines’

Jacob Smith
by Jacob Smith | News

31 May 2024

3 comments 3 comments

A medical professional drawing a dose of a vaccine from a vial with a syringe
Shutterstock - PhotobyTawat


Today, the NHS announced it has treated its first patient in England with a personalised vaccine against their bowel cancer, in a clinical trial part of NHS England’s new Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad. 

As part of the platform, which is run by our Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, thousands of cancer patients in England are set to gain fast-tracked access to trials of personalised cancer vaccines following the launch of a world-leading NHS trial ‘matchmaking’ service to help find new life-saving treatments. 

The vaccines being tested as part of the trials aim to help patients with different types of cancer and, if successfully developed, researched and approved, cancer vaccines could become part of standard care. 

“It’s incredibly exciting that patients in England are beginning to access personalised cancer vaccines for bowel cancer,” said Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK. 

“This technology pioneers the use of mRNA-based vaccines to sensitise people’s immune system and in turn detect and target cancer at its earliest stages.  

“Clinical trials like this are vital in helping more people live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer. If successful, the vaccine will be a game changer in preventing the onset or return of bowel cancer.” 

A UK first trial

Elliot Pfebve, 55, received the developmental jab at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, one of several sites taking part in the colorectal cancer vaccine trial sponsored by BioNTech SE.  

A higher-education lecturer, Elliot had no cancer symptoms and was diagnosed through a routine health check with his GP.  

Following blood tests, he was immediately invited to Manor Hospital in Walsall and triaged to a hospital ward to receive blood transfusions. 

A CT scan and a colonoscopy confirmed he had colon cancer and Eliott had surgery to remove the tumour and 30 cm of his large intestine.  

He was then referred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham for initial rounds of chemotherapy and to take part in a clinical trial. 

“Taking part in this trial tallies with my profession as a lecturer, and as a community-centred person,” he said.  

“I want to impact other people’s lives positively and help them realise their potential.  

“Through the potential of this trial, if it is successful, it may help thousands, if not millions of people, so they can have hope, and may not experience all I have gone through. I hope this will help other people.” 

How do cancer vaccines work?

The vaccine trial Elliot’s taking part in is one of several that will be taking place across the country to treat different types of cancer.  

Patients who agree to take part have a sample of their cancer tissue and a blood test taken.  

If they meet a clinical trial’s eligibility criteria, they can be referred to their nearest participating NHS site, meaning patients from hospitals across the country will find it easier than ever to take part in groundbreaking research.  

The investigational cancer vaccines evaluated in the colorectal cancer trial are based on a molecule called mRNA, the same technology used for the COVID-19 vaccine.  

They’re created by analysing a patient’s tumour to identify mutations specific to their own cancer. Using this information, medics can create an individualised cancer vaccine. 

The developmental vaccines are designed to induce an immune response that may prevent cancer from returning after surgery by stimulating the patient’s immune system to specifically recognise and potentially destroy any remaining cancer cells. 

The investigational cancer vaccines, which are being jointly developed by biopharmaceutical companies BioNTech and Genentech, are still undergoing trials and have not yet been approved by regulators. 

If successful, the vaccine will be a game changer in preventing the onset or return of bowel cancer.

- Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK

The launch pad

19 hospitals in England are already signed up to the Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad, one of the biggest projects of its kind in the world, with more sites joining the platform over the coming months.   

Some trials have already enlisted patients, although the majority of participants are expected to be enrolled from 2026 onwards. 

The scheme aims to expand and work with a range of partners in the pharmaceutical industry to include patients across many cancer types who could potentially join a vaccine trial, such as those with pancreatic and lung cancer.  

“Seeing Elliot receive his first treatment as part of the Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad is a landmark moment for patients and the health service as we seek to develop better and more effective ways to stop this disease,” said Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive. 

“Thanks to advances in care and treatment, cancer survival is at an all-time high in this country, but these vaccine trials could one day offer us a way of vaccinating people against their own cancer to help save more lives.  

“The NHS is in a unique position to deliver this kind of world-leading research at size and scale, and as more of these trials get up and running at hospitals across the country, our national match-making service will ensure as many eligible patients as possible get the opportunity to access them.” 

The NHS is working in partnership with Genomics England on the launch pad, with work already helping patients access the latest testing technologies and ensures they are given more targeted precision treatments for their cancer. 

    Comments

  • Viv Ewer
    13 June 2024

    Brilliant news, let’s hope this could be used for Prostate cancer. My husband was diagnosed last year, and not started treatment yet.

  • veronica
    6 June 2024

    Such fascinating, good news!

  • Joannah Wadsworth
    3 June 2024

    This would be amazing. I have ALk Positive lung cancer diagnosed at 52 and having never ever smoked. When the targeted therapy stops working if I have access to these trails that would be incredible

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    Comments

  • Viv Ewer
    13 June 2024

    Brilliant news, let’s hope this could be used for Prostate cancer. My husband was diagnosed last year, and not started treatment yet.

  • veronica
    6 June 2024

    Such fascinating, good news!

  • Joannah Wadsworth
    3 June 2024

    This would be amazing. I have ALk Positive lung cancer diagnosed at 52 and having never ever smoked. When the targeted therapy stops working if I have access to these trails that would be incredible

Tell us what you think

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read our comment policy.