Up to 10,000 Britons are set to take part in clinical trials for a personalized cancer vaccine by 2030 after the government signed a deal with a leading pharmaceutical company.
Patients will receive specific immunotherapy that works by stimulating the immune system to recognize and eliminate cancer cells.
The announcement came after the government signed an agreement with BioNTech in Germany – which previously developed a coronavirus vaccine with Pfizer in less than a year.
The partnership, which builds on a memorandum of understanding signed by the government and pharmaceutical companies in January, will see BioNTech set up a new laboratory in Cambridge which is expected to employ more than 70 leading scientists.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “This major new agreement brings us one step closer to providing life-saving new 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 testament to this success that BioNTech has chosen to make a significant investment here today.
“Personalized cancer vaccines have the potential to completely revolutionize the way we treat this devastating disease and it is very welcome that, thanks to today’s announcement, clinical trials will be widely disseminated”.
The trial will focus on personalized mRNA-based cancer treatments that seek to stimulate the patient’s immune system.
The technology is similar to that used in the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
They can be designed to target common abnormalities in specific cancer types or be tailored to individual tumors.
The new cancer vaccine launch pad (CVLP) will create a database to help quickly identify cancer patients who may be eligible for potential trials.
Most participants are not expected to enroll before 2026 and they will have to consent.
The collaboration 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 Minister Steve Barclay said: “This partnership is a huge step in the fight against cancer.
“I’m excited about the potential these trials have for both treating cancer patients and those who have the disease to stop it from coming back.
“This further demonstrates that the UK is an attractive location for innovative companies to invest in and pioneer cutting-edge treatments for our patients.”
Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of the NHS said: “The NHS will never stop in its efforts to pioneer new treatments that could change lives for generations to come.
“This is why we are developing our first Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad, enabling us to identify thousands of NHS patients who are suitable for cancer vaccine trials – giving them access to cutting-edge technology that has the potential to change cancer care forever.
“Thanks to advances in treatment and care alongside NHS awareness campaigns, cancer survival is at an all-time high, but the potential to stop cancer from returning is truly remarkable.”
Professor Ugur Sahin MD, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of BioNTech said: “We are truly honored to be an important part of this important collaboration, alongside the UK Government, NHS England, Genomics England and the National Institute for Health and Care Research.
“The United Kingdom’s expertise in genomic analysis in cancer patients is a key component of our joint efforts to make mRNA-based and precision cancer therapies widely accessible through clinical trials.
“If successful, this partnership has the potential to improve outcomes for cancer patients not only in the UK, but globally.”
On Thursday, the Health Secretary will hold a roundtable with NHS leaders and health professionals to discuss how technology can drive innovation across the service.
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