What does the new cancer vaccine trial mean for a cure for the disease?

A cancer shot tailored to the patient’s own tumors has yielded ‘very hopeful’ results in a trial.

None of the eight head and neck cancer patients, who were at high risk of relapse, saw their tumors return four months after receiving the vaccine.

In comparison, two patients in the control group who did not receive the shot saw their cancer come back.

The vaccine, which uses the same technology as AstraZeneca’s Covid shot, uses DNA extracted from each patient’s tumor.

The genetic fragment is then inserted into a weakened virus that is used to deliver the jab into the body, training the immune system to recognize and fight the cancer if it returns.

It is given as a weekly injection for six weeks, after which patients receive a booster dose every three weeks for a year.

The new numbers are too small to draw firm conclusions, but researchers say “all data point in the right direction.”

The technology used to make the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines is also being tested on cancer patients in the US and Europe.

A cancer shot tailored to patients’ own tumors has shown ‘very hopeful’ results in a trial of NHS patients. It is currently codenamed TG4050 (pictured)

Head and neck cancer is newly diagnosed in more than 12,000 people in the UK and 65,000 in the US each year. They kill just over 4,000 Britons a year and 14,000 Americans.

There are more than 30 areas in the head and neck where cancer can develop, including the mouth and throat.

The new vaccine – codename TG4050 – was developed by the French company Transgene.

It is known as a “viral vector vaccine,” which uses a genetically modified vaccinia virus, the same family that causes smallpox.

The pathogen is so weakened that it cannot cause disease and has been used in vaccination programs for decades.

A piece of tumor DNA is inserted into the virus so that when injected into the body it can train the immune system to watch out for these cancer cells.

The hope is that the body can recognize and destroy them before they can multiply and form tumors.

Doctors are optimistic about the shot because it’s so specific to each individual’s cancer — even though it will get more expensive in the future.

Maud Brandely, Transgene’s chief medical officer, said it gave patients “new hope” in the race to cure cancer.

Cancer mutations can vary from patient to patient, but making a custom vaccine for each patient should make it better at targeting these mutant cells.

The vaccine is given to patients after they have surgery to remove tumors. It is hoped that the jab will capture cancer cells before they can even be found on a scan.

Brian Wright recently received his 10th vaccine dose at Clatterbridge and has 10 doses left until January.

A year ago, Mr. Wright underwent 16-hour surgery to remove a tumor in his mouth and exchange his lower jaw for bone from his leg, followed by weeks of demanding radiation therapy.

He told Sky News: “If you’ve had cancer in your throat and they say they’re going to inject you with that cancer, it just sounds…’oh no, you’re not.’

“But then they explained that it doesn’t give you cancer, but makes your body immune to that cancer.”

Transgenic plans to treat a total of 30 patients in the head and neck cancer trial.

Half will get the shot as soon as their normal treatment ends, and the other half will get it if their cancer returns.

Oncologist consultant and director of clinical research at Clatterbridge centre, Professor Christian Ottensmeier, told Sky News he was “cautiously optimistic”.

“I’m really hopeful, yes,” he said. ‘I’m quite excited about it. All data points in the right direction.’

‘The immune system can see things that we can’t see on scans,’ said Professor Ottensmeier, ‘it is much smarter than humans.’

“If we can train the immune system to pick those cells that would otherwise lead to a relapse at a time when we can’t even see them, then the long-term survival rates for our patients are much higher.”

Another clinical trial of the injection in ovarian cancer patients in France and the US also shows promising results.

NEW JAB USES A GENETICALLY AUGUSTED VIRUS TO TEACH YOUR CELLS TO RECOGNIZE YOUR ANCIENT CANCER

How does it work?

The vaccine, codenamed TG4050, was created by a French biotech company Transgene.

DNA collected from tumors of patients is introduced into a harmless virus and injected into the patient.

The genetically modified virus teaches the patient’s immune system to look out for cancer cells, ideally destroying them before there is even a lump.

Physicians are confident in the jab because it is uniquely made to treat the patient’s individual cancer, and the DNA of tumor cells differs from patient to patient.

What did the process find?

None of the eight patients who received the shot had a cancer relapse four months later.

And two out of eight patients who didn’t get a shot relapsed, suggesting the vaccine has a protective effect.

However, the findings are still too small to draw firm conclusions and more data is needed.

Is it linked to the Covid vaccines?

The Covid pandemic has accelerated vaccine development, with the team of Oxford scientists who created the AstraZeneca shot now using the same ‘viral vector’ method to target prostate cancer.

Viral vector vaccines use a genetically modified vaccinia virus, from the same family that causes smallpox.

The pathogen is weakened to the point that it cannot cause disease and has been used in vaccination programs for decades.

A piece of tumor DNA is inserted into the virus so that when injected into the body it can train the immune system to watch out for these cancer cells.

The hope is that the body can recognize and destroy them before they can multiply and form tumors.

The mRNA technology of the Pfizer and Moderna Covid shots has also been tested for other cancers in the US and Europe.

Could it work for other cancers?

The shot is already being trialled for patients with ovarian cancer in France, five of whom have received the vaccine so far.

It is hoped that it will be used for more cancers in the future, if these trials prove successful.

What does it mean for cancer care in the future?

Maud Brandely, Transgene’s chief physician, said the results show the jab can give patients more time in remission, giving cancer patients “new hope.”

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