A pioneering new cancer treatment using the same biotechnology as the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine is set to be trialled in the UK.

The vaccine, using mRNA technology (messenger-ribonucleic-acid technology) will be designed for the immune system of each patient, presenting the immune system with genetic code from the cancer so that only the tumour itself is attacked rather than other cells.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay is due to sign a memorandum of understanding with German pharmaceutical company BioNTech on Friday, to “ensure the best possible treatments are available as soon as possible” for cancer.

Patients in England could get access to the personalised therapies from as early as September 2023.

BioNTech worked with Pfizer to develop the widely-used mRNA vaccination against Covid, and its partnership with the UK Government could deliver 10,000 doses of personalised therapies to UK patients by 2030 through a new research and development hub.

Mr Barclay said: “Once cancer is detected, we need to ensure the best possible treatments are available as soon as possible, including for breast, lung and pancreatic cancer.

“BioNTech helped lead the world on a Covid-19 vaccine and they share our commitment to scientific advancement, innovation and cutting edge scientific technology, making them perfect partners for a deal to work together on cancer vaccines.”

He added: “This partnership will mean that, from as early as September, our patients will be among the first to participate in trials and tests to provide targeted, personalised and precision treatments using transformative new therapies to both treat the existing cancer and help stop it returning.

“This agreement builds on this Government’s promise to increase research and development spending to £20 billion per year and demonstrates the UK remains one of the most attractive places in the world for innovative companies to invest in research, trial new treatments and treat patients more effectively”

Professor Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech said: “The UK successfully delivered Covid-19 vaccines so quickly because the National Health Service, academia, the regulator and the private sector worked together in an exemplary way.

“This agreement is a result of the lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic. Drug development can be accelerated without cutting corners if everyone works seamlessly together towards the same goal. Today’s agreement shows we are committed to do the same for cancer patients.”

Prof Sahin added: “Our goal is to accelerate the development of immunotherapies and vaccines using technologies we have been researching for over 20 years. The collaboration will cover various cancer types and infectious diseases affecting collectively hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

“If successful, this collaboration has the potential to improve outcomes for patients and provide early access to our suite of cancer immunotherapies as well as to innovative vaccines against infectious diseases – in the UK and worldwide.”

Katalin Kariko, a former BioNTech executive and University of Pennsylvania researcher, cautioned that the technology may not be powerful enough to destroy whole tumours.

“Immune cells cannot beat a big, huge tumour,” Ms Kariko said in an interview at Semmelweis University in Budapest. She said that scientists needed to “shift our attention to early detection,” such as developing blood tests allowing tumours to be identified long before patients would usually be diagnosed, she said. 

Results from a recent trial combining a personalised Moderna Inc vaccine with cancer drug Keytruda showed the potential of the technology, she said, but she added that the trial had been carried out in patients whose tumours had already been surgically removed.

“Some cells survive, and you can fight those with the vaccine,” she said. 

Some of the patients in the trials will have already received treatment for cancer and the hope is that the vaccine will prevent it returning, while other patients will have advanced cancers the vaccine could help shrink and control.

This content was originally published here.