The UK government has signed an agreement with COVID vaccine developer BioNTech to treat up to 10,000 cancer patients with a new vaccine.
The NHS, the UK’s universal healthcare service, will begin cancer vaccine trials later this year, treating up to 10’000 patients by 2030, it has been announced.
The news comes after the UK government announced its partnership with COVID-19 vaccine developer BioNTech on Wednesday.
While the German pharmaceutical giant has already begun testing personalised cancer vaccines in the UK, the majority of patients are expected to be enrolled from 2026 onwards, with NHS trials beginning later this year.
“With the first patients set to take part in vaccine trials this autumn, we hope to find a way of vaccinating people against their own cancers and improve their chances of survival,” said Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in a government statement.
How to participate in the trial
In addition, the NHS and its partner Genomics England have set up a Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad to create a database of patients which could take part in the trial, intended to “help as first line treatments or following surgery or chemotherapy or for patients which did not respond well to established therapies”.
According to the statement, the institution will provide details to clinical teams and patients, and those wishing to take part in relevant trials will be asked to consent in order to be considered.
Surplus tissue samples will determine whether patients are eligible.
What are cancer vaccines?
Unlike prophylactic vaccines, which are preventative and administered to healthy individuals, personalised cancer vaccines are “therapeutic,” meaning they are given to patient cancers as a treatment.
They are mRNA-based immunotherapies, meaning they activate a patient’s immune system to recognise and eliminate cancer cells.
Personalised cancer vaccines can be bespoke for an individual and their cancer, based on the genomic sequence of the patient’s tumour sample.
But the treatment can also target common abnormalities in various types of cancer.
BioNtech will set up laboratories in Cambridge, the UK, to support the development and is planning on starting further clinical trials to make potential new therapies available in the country.
If successfully developed, the vaccines could become part of standard care for early and late-stage cancer patients.