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Cancer treatment hope from Oxford COVID vaccine technology

Friday September 3rd 2021

The technology behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine could be used to help treat cancer, it is revealed today.

Research from the University of Oxford and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research has shown that a viral vector cancer vaccine generates effective anti-tumour immune responses and, when combined with immunotherapy, decreases tumour size and increases survival rates in mouse models.

Thanks to this finding, which is published in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer, a phase 1/2a clinical trial in 80 patients with non-small cell lung cancer will start later this year.

The study, which was carried out by Professor Benoit Van den Eynde’s group at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, University of Oxford, with co-authors Professor Adrian Hill and Dr Irina Redchenko at the University’s Jenner Institute, follows the discovery that Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine technology generates strong CD8+ T cell responses.

The team developed a two-dose therapeutic cancer vaccine with different prime and boost viral vectors and to create a vaccine treatment that specifically targets cancer cells, the vaccine was designed to target MAGE-A3 and NY-ESO-1 proteins that are present on the surface of many types of cancer cells.

In preclinical experiments in mouse tumour models, the cancer vaccine increased the levels of tumour-infiltrating CD8+ T cells and enhanced the response to anti-PD-1 immunotherapy.

The combined vaccine and anti-PD-1 treatment resulted in a greater reduction in tumour size and improved the survival of the mice compared to anti-PD-1 therapy alone.

Professor Benoit Van den Eynde, professor of tumour immunology at the University of Oxford said: “We knew from our previous research that MAGE-type proteins act like red flags on the surface of cancer cells to attract immune cells that destroy tumours.

“MAGE proteins have an advantage over other cancer antigens as vaccine targets since they are present on a wide range of tumour types. This broadens the potential benefit of this approach to people with many different types of cancer.

“Importantly for target specificity, MAGE-type antigens are not present on the surface of normal tissues, which reduces the risk of side-effects caused by the immune system attacking healthy cells.”

Adrian Hill, Lakshmi Mittal and Family professorship of vaccinology and director of the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, said the new vaccine platform has the potential to revolutionise cancer treatment.

“The forthcoming trial in non-small cell lung cancer follows a Phase 2a trial of a similar cancer vaccine in prostate cancer undertaken by the University of Oxford that is showing promising results,” he said.

“Our cancer vaccines elicit strong CD8+ T cell responses that infiltrate tumours and show great potential in enhancing the efficacy of immune checkpoint blockade therapy and improving outcomes for patients with cancer.”

Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer 3 September 2021

Tags: Cancer | Flu & Viruses | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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