First-in-human trial for new lung cancer immunotherapy

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK and Vaccitech Oncology Limited (VOLT)*, today (Wednesday) announce a new partnership to bring a novel immunotherapeutic vaccine strategy to patients with lung cancer.

“This novel approach using a modified adenovirus to prime the immune system and alert it to the presence of cancer cells could offer a completely new way to treat the disease.” - Dr Nigel Blackburn

The vaccine treatment developed by VOLT, a strategic collaboration between Vaccitech Ltd and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, is designed to stimulate the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.** It will deliver cancer-associated antigens (MAGE A3 and NY-ESO-1) to antigen presenting cells called dendritic cells, causing the immune system to produce cytotoxic T cells, which target and kill cancerous cells expressing the antigens.

This is the first time a viral vaccine programme using this platform will be tested in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common type of lung cancer. And separate clinical trials are also ongoing to test similar recombinant virus vaccines to treat people with late-stage prostate cancer.***

Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development (CDD) will sponsor and manage the first clinical trial of the therapeutic vaccine strategy, in combination with current standard of care and first line treatment for NSCLC.**** The Phase I/IIa trial will investigate whether receiving the immunotherapeutic improves the efficacy of chemotherapy and anti-PD-1 treatment. It will also assess the ability of the therapeutic to provoke a safe and effective anti-cancer immune response in people with NSCLC.

Dr Nigel Blackburn, Cancer Research UK’s director of drug development, said: “This partnership with VOLT is an important step to help accelerate this promising immunotherapy and could help more people survive lung cancer, which remains very hard to treat. This novel approach using a modified adenovirus to prime the immune system and alert it to the presence of cancer cells could offer a completely new way to treat the disease.”  

Vaccitech CEO, Bill Enright, said: “We are delighted to enter into a clinical development partnership with two of the world’s most prestigious cancer research institutions. We believe that this partnership is an important validation of our prime boost platform’s utility in oncology as well as infectious disease.”

Jonathan Skipper, executive vice president for technology development, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, said: “Previous clinical trials of experimental cancer vaccines targeting MAGE and NY-ESO antigens have demonstrated that these antigens are highly specific to cancer and capable of eliciting strong immune responses. We believe that Vaccitech’s highly effective T cell induction platform should provide a potent immunotherapeutic that, in combination with checkpoint blockade, is capable of inducing sustained levels of cancer antigen-specific CD8+ T cells and the desired therapeutic effect in patients.”

Upon trial completion, VOLT retains the option to undertake further clinical development and commercialisation of the immunotherapeutic. If VOLT elects not to exercise its option, Cancer Research UK will have the rights to take the programme forward in all cancer indications.*****

The trial will enrol approximately 80 people who have been diagnosed with NSCLC and is due to start at the end of 2020. It will be conducted across multiple sites in the UK, through the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) network.******

Every year around 41,700 people are diagnosed with NSCLC in the UK, which accounts for around 88% of all lung cancer cases.******* New treatments are urgently needed, as only around 5% of people survive lung cancer for 10 years or more in the UK.

ENDS

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Notes to Editor

* Vaccitech Oncology Limited (VOLT) is a strategic collaboration between Vaccitech Ltd, a clinical-stage T cell immunotherapy company developing products to treat and prevent cancer and infectious diseases and Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (Ludwig) an international non-profit organisation that conducts innovative cancer research to detect, control and prevent cancer.

** The initial vaccine (known as VTP-600) is designed on the back of Vaccitech’s proprietary viral vector platform and contains a chimpanzee adenovirus (ChAdOx1), which will prime the immune system by delivery of MAGE-A3 and NY-ESO-1. MAGE-A3 and NY-ESO-1 are antigens expressed by tumour cells including NSCLC tumour cells. This will be followed by a recombinant Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) boost against MAGE-A3. People who express the NY-ESO-1 antigen will then get a second boost of MVA NY-ESO-1, which is expected to improve the size and length of the induced immune response.

*** Vaccination in Prostate Cancer (VANCE) https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02390063  Vaccination in Early and Advanced Prostate Cancer (ADVANCE) https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03815942?term=5T4+ADVANCE+trial&rank=1

**** Chemotherapy and anti-PD-1 treatment

***** Cancer Research UK has an impressive record of clinical development partnership agreements, this will be the 24th signed by its commercial partnership team. 

****** The ECMC network is funded by Cancer Research UK and the UK’s four Health Departments.

******* Based on the annual average number of new cases of lung cancer (ICD10 C33-34) in the UK between 2014 and 2016 (around 47,200), and on 88% of all lung cancer cases in the England, Wales, Jersey and Guernsey being non-small cell lung cancer according to the Royal College of Physicians. National Lung Cancer Audit annual report 2018 (for the audit period 2017). London: Royal College of Physicians, 2019.

Cancer survival has doubled in the last 40 years, but progress hasn’t been equal across all types of cancer. Although lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK the last four decades have shown very little improvement in lung cancer survival and every day 97 people die from the disease. Fewer people survive lung cancer for 5 years or more than most other cancers.