Up to 10,000 Britons can take part in cancer vaccine trials

Up to 10,000 Britons will take part in clinical trials for personalized cancer vaccines by 2030 after the Government signs agreements with leading pharmaceutical companies.

Patients will be given precision immunotherapy that works by stimulating the body’s immune system to recognize and eliminate cancer cells.

The announcement comes after the Government signed an agreement with Germany-based company BioNTech – which previously developed a coronavirus vaccine with Pfizer in less than a year.

The partnership, which builds on a memorandum of understanding between the Government and a pharmaceutical company signed in January, will see BioNTech set up a new laboratory in Cambridge that is expected to employ more than 70 top scientists.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “This important new agreement brings us one step closer to providing new, life-saving cancer treatments to thousands of patients across the country.

“The UK is a global leader in life sciences – helping to create thousands of highly skilled jobs and pioneering research – and it is a testament to the success BioNTech has selected to make such a significant investment here today.

“Personalized cancer vaccines have the potential to completely revolutionize the way we treat this vicious disease and it is very welcome that, thanks to today’s announcement, clinical trials will be widely launched”.

The trial will focus on personalized mRNA-based cancer immunotherapy that seeks to activate the patient’s immune system.

The technology is similar to that used in Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine.

They can be designed to target the same abnormalities in certain types of cancer or be tailored to a person’s tumor.

The new Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad (CVLP) will create a database to help quickly identify cancer patients who are eligible for potential trials.

Most participants are expected not to register before 2026 and they must agree.

The partnership will seek to help people with early and late stage cancer and, if successfully developed, a cancer vaccine could become part of standard care.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “This partnership is a major step forward in the fight against cancer.

“I am excited about the potential of this trial to treat patients with cancer and those who have had it to stop it coming back.

“This further demonstrates that the UK is an attractive location for innovative companies to invest in and pioneer advanced treatments for our patients.”

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS said: “The NHS will stop at nothing in its quest to pioneer new treatments that can change the lives of generations to come.

NHS 75th Anniversary

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, at the NHS birthday ceremony at Westminster Abbey, London, as part of healthcare service’s 75th anniversary celebrations (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“This is why we developed our first Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad, which allows us to identify thousands of NHS patients suitable for cancer vaccine trials – giving them the earliest possible access to cutting-edge technology that has the potential to change cancer care forever.

“Thanks to advances in medicine and treatment alongside NHS awareness campaigns, cancer survival is at an all-time high, but the potential to stop cancer from coming back is truly extraordinary.”

Professor Ugur Sahin MD, chief executive and co-founder of BioNTech said: “We are truly honored to be an integral part of this historic partnership, together with the UK government, NHS England, Genomics UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

“The UK’s expertise in genomic analysis in cancer patients is an important component of our joint efforts to make precision, mRNA-based cancer immunotherapy widely accessible through clinical trials.

“If successful, this collaboration has the potential to improve outcomes for cancer patients not only in the UK, but worldwide.”

On Thursday, the Secretary for Health will convene a roundtable with NHS leaders and health experts to discuss how technology can drive innovation across services.

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