Cancer vaccine clinical trial

Landmark international bowel cancer vaccine trial launches

An international collaboration between experts in Australia and Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust is set to trial a ground-breaking cancer vaccine.

Dr Tony Dhillon, the trial’s chief investigator and consultant medical oncologist at Royal Surrey, devised the idea of the trial and has spent the last four years working in tandem with Professor Tim Price in Australia to develop a vaccine for early bowel cancer.

The vaccine will be used before surgery in the hope it will help the body attack the cancer, making the following surgery less invasive.

Royal Surrey says the strength of the vaccine could also mean the body responds better if a relapse occurs.

“This is the first treatment vaccine in any gastrointestinal cancer and we have high hopes…” – Dr Tony Dhillon

Once the trial is complete, the vaccine will either be licensed for use or another large study will be carried out, according to the health service.

Dr Dhillon said: “This is the first treatment vaccine in any gastrointestinal cancer and we have high hopes that it will be very successful. We think that for a lot of patients, the cancer will have gone completely after this treatment.

“This is ground-breaking. I feel as if we are on the edge of something really big here. The vaccine makes the immune system go after the cancer. It will be life changing because it means that potentially, patients may not need to have surgery – they may just have the vaccine.”

The trial will be run across 10 sites, with six in Australia and four in the UK. A total of 44 patients will participate in the study over the course of 18 months.

In the UK, the trial will be run by the University of Southampton’s Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit, while Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide will oversee the Australian side.

Patients will undergo an endoscopy and a tissue sample will be analysed to see if they are eligible for the trial – if they are, three doses of the vaccine will be given to them before having surgery to remove the cancer.

“We are hugely proud to have been involved…” – Louise Stead

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer and has more than 1.2 million cases a year across the globe, with a mortality rate of around 50%.

Royal Surrey’s chief executive, Louise Stead, commented: “We are hugely proud to have been involved in the launch of this ground-breaking new vaccine.

“As the fourth largest cancer centre in the UK, helping to fight cancer is a huge part of what we do and this will really provide an opportunity for bowel cancer patients and give them real hope of beating the disease.”

She continued: “I would like to say a huge well done to Dr Tony Dhillon and everyone associated with this trial for all their hard work.”

Dr Dhillon believes the trial could be key to treating bowel cancer in the future.

The vaccine has been designed by Imugene Ltd.

Image credit: iStock

NHE March/April 2024

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