Oxford prepares human trial for combo cancer vaccine and immunotherapy

A potentially powerful anti-cancer vaccine combined with immunotherapy is headed to human trials later this year. The work comes from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the University of Oxford, which reported on Friday that the vaccine showed promise in tests involving mice with tumors. The cancer vaccine shows more promise than cancer immunotherapy on its own.

Cancer immunotherapy is a promising treatment that, sadly, only works for a small percentage of cancer patients. The reason, according to the researchers, is because the therapy leverages the body's anti-tumor T cells that can kill cancer cells. Some patients have low levels of these anti-tumor cancer cells.

The new cancer vaccine from Oxford works by increasing the amount of CD8+ T cells, likewise boosting the body's response to cancer immunotherapy. The vaccine comes in two doses and showed promise with stimulating anti-tumor cells in mice, also increasing their responses to the immunotherapy.

The vaccine is built upon Oxford's vaccine tech, the same tech behind the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Later this year, the team behind the vaccine will launch a Phase 1/2a clinical trial involving 80 patients who have non-small cell lung cancer. The trial will combine the cancer vaccine with anti-PD-1 immunotherapy in collaboration with the Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development and Vaccitech Oncology Limited.

In a statement, co-Director of Oxford Cancer Tim Elliott said:

In Oxford, we are combining our fundamental scientific expertise in immunology and antigen discovery with translational research on vaccine platforms. By bringing these teams together we can continue to address the significant challenge of broadening the positive impact of immunotherapy to benefit more patients.