Cancer vaccine trialled at Guy's and St Thomas'

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Cancer vaccine trialled at GSTT

A new vaccine aimed at enabling the immune system to fight against advanced cancer is being trialled with patients at Guy’s and St Thomas’. 

Scientists are testing the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, which works by activating the body’s own immune system to fight against cancer as it would against bacterial and viral infections.

All patients with any solid tumour, irrespective of their type of cancer and tumour genetic profile, are believed to have the potential to benefit from this sort of treatment.

The first two patients have already been vaccinated in the VAPER (vaccination with adjuvants, peptides and elimination of regulatory cells) trial. It is anticipated to run for 18-24 months with recruitment of patients currently ongoing.

Kelly Potter, 35, from Beckenham, is a patient at Guy’s Hospital who is participating in the VAPER trial. She was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer in July 2015.

Kelly says: “Although I had excellent treatment at Guy’s 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. You get the best treatment anyway at Guy’s but it’s fantastic to be part of something that could be groundbreaking.”

The aim of the trial is to establish the benefits of the vaccination programme, understand any side effects associated with it, and analyse the impact of this treatment on patients’ quality of life. Scientists hope the results will take them one step closer to developing an effective but non-toxic cancer therapy that can be used in clinical practice.

The trial is taking place at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Guy’s and St Thomas' Clinical Research Facility (CRF) and the NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

Dr James Spicer, Principal Investigator at Guy’s and St Thomas’ BRC, says: “The unique feature of this study is the use of additional agents to boost the vaccination response. It is hoped this will abolish the inhibitory effect of regulatory immune cells present in the patient’s circulation, which are believed to have limited the effectiveness of previous cancer vaccine approaches.”

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP adds: “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 groundbreaking work being delivered by our world-leading life sciences sector, supported through the Government’s continued investment in the NIHR.”

Last updated: March 2016

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