Up to 10,000 across UK to trial cancer vaccines by 2030 to ‘completely revolutionise’ treatment
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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the government has signed a "landmark" agreement with a leading pharmaceutical firm which will take the UK “one step closer to delivering life-saving new cancer treatments for thousands of patients right across the country.”
The partnership with German-based company BioNTech, which previously developed a coronavirus vaccine with Pfizer in less than a year, will give patients precision immunotherapies that work by stimulating the immune system to recognise and eliminate cancer cells.
The agreement is expected to see BioNTech set up new laboratories in Cambridge employing more than 70 top scientists
It seeks to help people with early and late-stage cancers and, if successfully developed, cancer vaccines could become part of standard care.
Trials will focus on personalised mRNA-based cancer immunotherapies which seek to activate a patient’s immune system. Most participants are not expected to enrol before 2026 and they will have to consent.
A new Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad (CVLP) will create a database to help quickly identify cancer patients who could be eligible for potential trials.
The technology used will be similar to that used in the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, and can either be designed to target shared abnormalities in a specific type of cancer or tailored to an individual’s tumour.
Sunak said: “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 have chosen to make this significant investment here today.
“Personalised cancer vaccines have the potential to completely revolutionise the way we treat this cruel disease and it is hugely welcome that, thanks to today’s announcement, clinical trials will be rolled out widely”.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the partnership marks a “huge step forward in the fight against cancer” and he is “excited by the potential these trials have to both treat patients with cancer and those who have had it to stop it returning.”
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS, added: “The NHS will not stop in its efforts to pioneer new treatments that could be life-changing for future generations.
“This is why we are developing our very first Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad, enabling 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.”