Eradicating cancer by vaccination against the tumour blood supply

Grand Challenge:
Develop vaccines to prevent non-viral cancers

Principal Investigator:
Prof. Roy Bicknell (University of Birmingham)

Dr George Coukos (Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research)
Prof. Arjan Griffioen (VU University Medical Centre)
Dr Anna-Karin Olsson (Uppsala University)
Dr Stephen Hodi (Dana-Farber Cancer Center/Broad Institute)
Prof. Michele De Palma (Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research)
Prof. Gary W. Middleton (University of Birmingham)
Prof. Douglas Hanahan (Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research)

Patient Representative:
Jacqui Gath


The process of blood vessel formation in tumours has long been of interest to cancer researchers because it’s regarded as an Achilles heel for the disease: a tumour can’t grow to a size that’s potentially harmful unless it establishes its own blood supply. 

Professor Roy Bicknell and an international team of researchers want to exploit this characteristic by using it as a target for a vaccine that can prevent non-viral cancers. It’s a tough challenge and one that requires a wide-range of expertise. So the team is bringing together scientists with a long track record in studying blood vessel formation alongside global experts in vaccine development and clinical trials.

Members of the team have already identified target molecules specific to this process in cancer – a Grand Challenge award would be used to establish which of these molecules make the best vaccine target before building a vaccine and testing it for the first time in people at an increased risk of cancer. The hope is that the vaccine will instruct the immune system to destroy these cancer-specific molecules whenever they arise, stopping tumours in their tracks before they start to grow.

Grand Challenge allows us, for the first time, to tackle the development of a universal cancer vaccine, something that would never be funded by other schemes as it would be deemed too difficult or high risk. It is this balance of accepting high risk elements to achieve great progress that makes Grand Challenge so exciting.

Prof. Roy Bicknell, University of Birmingham

I am excited about the approach of creating a vaccine that targets the tumour micro-environment as it could have huge clinical impact for many cancers. Novel strategies like this, turning traditional tactics on their heads, can make good science great.

Prof. Adrian Bird, University of Edinburgh


What is exciting about this proposal is that it is looking to combine both treatment and prevention as well as using the body's own defence mechanism, the immune system, to do this and so would potentially lead to a treatment that is both safe with little, if any, wider side effects and would be long lasting.

Jim Elliott, Grand Challenge Patient Advisory Panel

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