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UK trial launched to test new vaccine for terminal cancer

Published 02/03/2016

The trial is expected to run for up to two years
The trial is expected to run for up to two years

A trial has been launched in the UK to test a new vaccine for terminal cancer.

The immunotherapy trial will examine whether a vaccine is effective in stimulating the body's own immune system to destroy cancer cells.

Two patients have already received the vaccine as part of the trial, which is expected to run for up to two years.

Immunotherapy is generating great interest in the cancer research community. In February, experts in the US announced they had seen "extraordinary" results in early trials involving terminally ill patients with blood cancer.

The UK trial - in Guildford and London - is for people with solid tumours and is recruiting those who have failed on previous types of cancer treatment.

All patients with any solid tumour, irrespective of their type of cancer, are believed to have the potential to benefit from immunotherapy.

Professor Hardev Pandha, who is leading the trial at the Surrey Cancer Research Institute, said: "We know that the immune system in patients with advanced cancer is suppressed, so it's unable to recognise and kill cancer calls.

"In this trial we are investigating a form of immunotherapy designed to activate the body's immune system by administration of a vaccine based on fragments of a key cancer protein."

The new Vaper trial involves a vaccine and a n immunity stimulating cream applied to the injection site to help the vaccine work better.

Patients will also take low-dose chemotherapy tablets and some people will also have celecoxib, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory.

Life sciences minister George Freeman said: "This trial is pushing new boundaries for potential cancer treatments, and brings new hope for patients in the fight against cancer.

"The prospect of a vaccine to help the body's immune system fight advanced cancer highlights the ground-breaking work being delivered by our world-leading life sciences sector, supported through the Government's continued investment in the National Institute for Health Research."

Kelly Potter, 35, from Beckenham, is taking part in the trial. She was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer in July.

She said: "Although I had excellent treatment at Guy's Hospital where the cancer was stabilised, it had already spread to spots on my liver and lungs. So when I was told that I may be eligible for this trial, I was delighted.

"When I read the leaflet about the Vaper trial, it struck me that it seemed a bit of breakthrough and that if it worked, it could be a revolution in the treatment of cancer.

"To be part of the trial has changed my life for the better. It's been a very positive experience and really interesting. I feel honoured to be involved."

Ms Potter had her first injection on February 9 and is scheduled for a further seven visits.

She said: "My hope for the future is to beat the cancer for as long as I can and, if I can't, I have come to terms with that.

"I would like to go on and inspire others with cancer."

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "Treatments such as the one being tested in this study may be able to direct the immune system to mistakes in our cells which turn them into cancer.

"For this target, we hope that the combination of vaccine and immune boosting treatment will be more effective than the vaccine has been previously on its own.

"For many patients in this trial, all their other options will have been explored so it's vital we continue to explore different ways to treat the disease."

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