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NHS England launches groundbreaking personalised cancer vaccine trial

Published: 31st May 2024
Close-up shot of doctor giving vaccine injection into patients shoulder.

Thousands of cancer patients in England may benefit from access to trials of a personalised cancer vaccine set to target individual patient tumours.

Today, NHS England announced a personalised cancer vaccine has been used in a world-first clinical trial to treat a patient against their bowel cancer. 

The trial forms part of NHS England’s Cancer Vaccine Launch pad. This innovative “matchmaking” scheme hopes to save thousands of lives by providing a permanent cure, personalised to each patient in a matter of weeks. 

Personalised vaccines work by using mRNA technology – the same technology used for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination, and identify mutations specific to the patient’s cancer based on analysis of the individual tumour. Using this information, a individual personalised cancer vaccination can be created.

The first trials are expected to be offered to patients with colorectal, skin, lung, bladder, pancreatic and kidney cancers, with the hope to add more cancer sites in the future.

Prof Peter Johnson, NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer, said: “We know that even after a successful operation, cancers can sometimes return because a few cancer cells are left in the body, but using a vaccine to target those remaining cells may be a way to stop this happening.”

Research remains at an early stage, but current trials have shown promising results. 

Head of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, said: “Thanks to advances in care and treatment, cancer survival is at an all-time high in this country, but these vaccine trials could one day offer us a way of vaccinating people against their own cancer to help save more lives.”.

“The NHS is in a unique position to deliver this kind of world-leading research at size and scale, and as more of these trials get up and running at hospitals across the country, our national match-making service will ensure as many eligible patients as possible get the opportunity to access them.”.

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