Soon a vaccine against lung cancer capable of preventing 90% of cases?

Soon a vaccine against lung cancer capable of preventing 90

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    English scientists are developing a “revolutionary” vaccine against lung cancer. According to them, this drug could prevent up to 90% of cases by training the immune system to attack the first signs of the disease.

    The announcement from researchers at the University of Oxford is a dream come true, but we must be careful because these announcements are currently based mainly on hypotheses and mathematical models.

    Help the immune system detect cancer cells

    As Tim Elliott, professor of immuno-oncology at the University of Oxford, explains: “Cancer is a disease of our own body and it is difficult for the immune system to distinguish between what is normal and what is cancerous. Getting the immune system to recognize and fight cancer is one of the biggest challenges in research today.“.

    And this is what the LunVax project researchers focused on: lung cancer cells appear different from normal cells due to the presence of specific proteins called neoantigens. Neoantigens appear on the cell surface due to cancer-causing mutations in the cell’s DNA. The LungVax vaccine will carry a strand of DNA that trains the immune system to recognize these neoantigens on abnormal lung cells and therefore kill these cells and stop lung cancer.

    The technology is the same as that used for Astrazeneca’s anti-covid vaccines, already developed with the University of Oxford. This is not a messenger RNA vaccine but a more traditional vaccine with a harmless chimpanzee adenovirus containing a protein which will stimulate the immune system.

    Many steps remain to be taken

    In this study, scientists want to demonstrate that this vaccine succeeds in triggering an immune response. If this work is successful, a clinical trial would be initiated and if the results are promising, the vaccine could then be extended to larger trials aimed at people at high risk of lung cancer. This could include people aged 55 to 74 who currently smoke or have previously smoked and who are currently eligible for lung cancer screenings, as are in place in some parts of the UK.

    Because the main purpose of this vaccine is preventive. Professor of Oncology at the University of Oxford and founder of the LungVax project, Professor Sarah Blagden said: “We are developing a vaccine to stop the formation of lung cancer in people at high risk“.

    According to Professor Tim Elliott, “the vaccine could cover about 90% of all lung cancers, based on our computer models and previous research (…) LungVax will not replace quitting smoking as the best way to reduce your risk of lung cancer. But it could offer a viable route to preventing some of the earliest cancers from occurring“.

    Towards a new method of cancer prevention?

    Researchers from the University of Oxford, the Francis Crick Institute and University College London have received £1.7 million in funding from the government body Cancer Research UK and some CRIS Cancer Foundation, an organization promoting cancer research. This budget should cover the costs of conducting the study and producing 3,000 doses of vaccine.

    Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “The science that successfully led the world out of the pandemic could soon guide us toward a future where people can live longer and better, without fear of cancer. Projects like LungVax are a truly important step towards an exciting future, where cancer will be much more preventable. We are in a golden age of research and this is one of many projects that we hope will transform lung cancer survivorship“.

    For the moment, we understand, these are the very preliminary stages of this research, which apart from proven vaccine technology, remains mainly theoretical. Lung cancer is the third most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death in France.