The UK Government has announced a deal to accelerate research into vaccines for cancer.
The deal will involve a partnership with pharmaceutical company BioNTech, which pioneered the first mRNA COVID vaccine. They will work on developing personalised mRNA vaccines to fight established disease and advanced tumours.
'Once cancer is detected, we need to ensure the best possible treatments are available as soon as possible,' said health minister Steve Barclay. 'This partnership will mean that, from as early as September, our patients will be among the first to participate in trials and tests to provide targeted, personalised and precision treatments using transformative new therapies to both treat the existing cancer and help stop it returning.'
The programme will deliver 10,000 personalised therapies to UK patients by 2030, access to which will be managed through the Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad that is currently under development by NHS England and Genomics England. The Launch Pad will enable the identification of patients eligible for clinical trials, and explore potential vaccines across multiple types of cancer. If successful, cancer vaccines could become part of standard care.
'The concept here is to use specific molecular features in individual cancers of patients to encode them into the mRNA vaccines, and to train the immune system to attack,' BioNTech co-founder Professor Ozlem Tureci told the BBC.
The announcement was welcomed by Cancer Research UK according to the BBC, but they cautioned that it may be difficult for overstretched NHS staff to find time to set up clinical trials.
As well as benefiting patients, the partnership aims to create jobs and strengthen the UK's position as a leader in global life sciences, by creating new research and development facilities.