New trial set to test ‘bowel cancer vaccine’

A hospital is currently investigating the potential of a cancer vaccine to significantly reduce the chances of bowel cancer recurrence in patients.

A novel trial is exploring a fresh approach to preventing the return of bowel cancer, involving a personalised cancer vaccine.

According to NHS England, dozens of individuals are expected to participate in this trial from 2026 onwards.

The trial, taking place at University College London Hospital, will include patients with stage two or three rectal cancer who have undergone surgical removal of their tumour but still have circulating tumour DNA in their blood.

This DNA heightens their risk of cancer recurrence. However, personalised vaccines are being developed based on this DNA, utilising mutations specific to each patient’s cancer to create unique immunotherapy.

BNT122, the vaccine employed in this pioneering new study, is thought to stimulate the immune system to recognise and eliminate specific cancer cells expressing the same mutations.

BioNTech, a German biotechnology company that collaborated with Pfizer to develop one of the first Covid vaccines, originally created the vaccine.

The study aims to demonstrate that this vaccine can prevent the cancer from returning after a patient has had their primary tumour surgically removed.

Professor Peter Johnson, the NHS national clinical director for cancer, explained: “We know that even after a successful operation, cancers can sometimes return because a few cancer cells are left in the body, but using a vaccine to target those remaining cells may be a way to stop this happening.”

Recurrence rates for bowel cancer fluctuate dramatically from a paltry 7% to a worrying 42% based on the cancer’s stage according to the Mayo Clinic.

This novel study is a component of NHS England’s Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad, presently encompassing 30 hospitals, with a plan to incorporate additional establishments over the ensuing months.

The initiative aims at accelerating patient access to cancer vaccines and involves collaborations with various pharmaceutical heavyweights, laying the groundwork for an extension of this endeavour to combat other formidable cancers, such as those found in the pancreas and lungs.

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