Torbay and South Devon NHS to host pioneering therapeutic cancer vaccine research trial

Photo featuring the cancer vaccine research study team. Left to right - Petra Gee, Josh Bowden, Joel Prowse, Amelia Perry, Dr Jonathan Buckley, Danielle Masters, Sean Caunter, Dr Nangi Lo and Peter Pugh.
Left to right - Petra Gee, Josh Bowden, Joel Prowse, Amelia Perry, Dr Jonathan Buckley, Danielle Masters, Sean Caunter, Dr Nangi Lo and Peter Pugh.

Published: 24 November 2023

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust’s research and development department has been selected as a hospital for a groundbreaking cancer vaccine trial.

The cancer vaccine study for an investigational therapy called BNT122/autogene cevumeran (BNT122-01) for patients with colorectal cancer will focus on exploring the safety and efficacy of a personalised cancer vaccine. This is an investigational therapy which is being jointly developed by biopharmaceutical companies BioNTech and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, that has not yet been approved by regulators. The study is based on decades of research and progress in mRNA vaccine technology.

Eligible people will be those who have had surgery to remove their cancer, but blood tests have shown that there may be a risk of the cancer returning.

Participants will then have their individual tumour mutations studied and sequenced, which will be used to create a therapeutic vaccine specific to their tumour. The aim is for the investigational vaccine to train the immune system to recognise the cancer and delay or stop it from returning.

Torbay and South Devon’s research and development department have been chosen following successful recruitment and contributions to a number of innovative trials and investigations, including the recent SYMPLIFY trial on a blood test that detects more than 50 types of cancers.

Dr. Nangi Lo, medical oncology lead for Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and principal investigator for the trial, said: “The ability to evaluate bespoke vaccines against a person’s own specific cancer as part of a clinical trial may bring us one step closer to improve outcomes for patients and I am very excited that Torbay Hospital have been chosen as one of the hospitals to trial this pioneering investigational treatment, not only to our own population but to the whole of the Southwest.”

This follows the news earlier this year that NHS England is collaborating with BioNTech to facilitate the development of innovative medicines including therapeutic cancer vaccines across a range of cancer types over the next decade, through the Cancer Vaccine Launchpad Program (CVLP).

The CVLP represents an ambitious initiative by NHS England, with the goal of offering personalized therapeutic mRNA cancer vaccines to as many as 10,000 patients by the year 2030, either in clinical trials or as authorized treatments. This study is the first cancer vaccine trial in the CVLP.

Dr Lennard Lee, senior government advisor for the UK national cancer vaccine advance said: “The work by our most talented cancer centres is inspiring. We know the capability of our country in accelerating vaccine research. We are now witnessing a renaissance in cancer research as part of this cancer vaccine advance. Trials like this in Devon could be pivotal in improving patient outcomes for cancer.”