U.K. researchers get funding for lung cancer vaccine development

Lung Cancer Hotspot Social

Researchers are working to develop a lung cancer vaccine in the U.K. with 1.7 million pounds ($2.2 million) funding from leading charities.

The LungVax vaccine will use technology similar to the successful Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to activate the immune system to kill cancer cells and stop lung cancer. It would be the world’s first vaccine to prevent lung cancer in people with a high risk of the disease. 

Cancer Research UK and the CRIS Cancer Foundation are backing its development by scientists at the University of Oxford, the Francis Crick Institute, and University College London (UCL).

The funding over the next two years will support lab research and initial manufacturing of 3,000 doses of the vaccine at the Oxford Clinical BioManufacturing Facility.

Researchers think the vaccine could cover around 90% of all lung cancers; this funding will be the first step toward getting it to patients. The vaccine will carry a strand of DNA which trains the immune system to recognize and kill so-called “red flag” proteins (neoantigens) on abnormal lung cancer cells.

Neoantigens appear on the surface of cells because of cancer-causing mutations within the cell’s DNA.

There are approximately 48,500 cases of lung cancer in the U.K. every year, according to Cancer Research UK; around 72% of cases are caused by smoking.

“Cancer is a disease of our own bodies and it’s hard for the immune system to distinguish between what’s normal and what’s cancer,” said Professor Tim Elliott, Kidani Professor of Immuno-oncology at the University of Oxford and research lead for the LungVax project. 

“Getting the immune system to recognize and attack cancer is one of the biggest challenges in cancer research today. If we can replicate the kind of success seen in trials during the pandemic, we could save the lives of tens of thousands of people every year in the U.K. alone,” Elliot said.

Lab tests will see if the vaccine successfully triggers an immune response. If results are positive, it will move to a clinical trial.

The vaccine could be scaled up to bigger trials for people at high risk of lung cancer, which could include people ages 55 to 74 who are current smokers or have previously smoked, and those who qualify for targeted lung health checks in parts of the U.K.

“Fewer than 10% of people with lung cancer survive their disease for 10 years or more. That must change,” said Professor Mariam Jamal-Hanjani, of UCL and the Francis Crick Institute, who will be leading the LungVax clinical trial.

“LungVax will not replace stopping smoking as the best way to reduce your risk of lung cancer. But it could offer a viable route to preventing some of the earliest stage cancers from emerging in the first place,” she said.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said, “We’re in a golden age of research and this is one of many projects which we hope will transform lung cancer survival.”

Page 1 of 7
Next Page