First-in-human trial for new lung cancer immunotherapy

2019-12-18 00:00:00

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.

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.

Notes to editors

For media enquiries contact Angharad Kolator Baldwin in the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8456 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

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)  Vaccination in Early and Advanced Prostate Cancer (ADVANCE)

**** 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.


About Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development 

Cancer Research UK has an impressive record of developing novel treatments for cancer. The Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development has been pioneering the development of new cancer treatments for 25 years, taking over 140 potential new anti-cancer agents into clinical trials in patients. It currently has a portfolio of 21 new anti-cancer agents in preclinical development, Phase I or early Phase II clinical trials. Six of these new agents have made it to market including temozolomide for brain cancer, abiraterone for prostate cancer and rucaparib for ovarian cancer. Two other drugs are in late development Phase III trials. This rate of success is comparable to that of any pharmaceutical company.


About Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships Team

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. Our specialist Commercial Partnerships Team works closely with leading international cancer scientists and their institutes to protect intellectual property arising from their research and to establish links with commercial partners. The team develop promising ideas into successful cancer therapeutics, software, devices, diagnostics and enabling technologies. This helps to accelerate progress in exciting new discoveries in cancer research and bring new treatments to patients sooner.


Cancer Research UK’s commercial activity operates through Cancer Research Technology Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cancer Research UK. It is the legal entity which pursues drug discovery research in themed alliance partnerships and delivers varied commercial partnering arrangements.


About Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK receives no funding from the UK government for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on vital donations from the public.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


About Vaccitech

Vaccitech is a clinical stage T cell immunotherapy company developing non-replicating viral vectors as vaccines to treat and prevent cancer and infectious diseases. The company’s proprietary technology platform, comprising Chimp Adenovirus (prime) and MVA (boost), induces, boosts and maintains CD8+ and CD4+ T-cells to levels that are to date unsurpassed by other technologies. The Vaccitech prime-boost platform is licenced from one of the most prestigious vaccine research institutes in the world, the Jenner Institute at University of Oxford. Vaccitech currently has a Phase IIb clinical programme for influenza and is poised to enter the clinic with HBV and HPV therapeutics. Vaccitech is also progressing other products funded by partners, including a Phase IIa study in prostate cancer. The company is backed by leading institutions including Google Ventures, Sequoia China and Oxford Science Innovation.


About Ludwig Cancer Research

Ludwig Cancer Research is an international collaborative network of acclaimed scientists that has pioneered cancer research and landmark discovery for more than 40 years. Ludwig combines basic science with the ability to translate its discoveries and conduct clinical trials to accelerate the development of new cancer diagnostics and therapies. Since 1971, Ludwig has invested $2.7 billion in life-changing science through the not-for-profit Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the six U.S.-based Ludwig Centers. To learn more, visit


About Vaccitech Oncology Ltd.

Vaccitech Oncology Limited (VOLT) is the oncology focused strategic collaboration of Vaccitech and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, an international non-profit organization that conducts innovative cancer research to prevent, detect and control cancer, continues to pioneer immunological research in oncology and is looking to enable the clinical development of cutting-edge new treatments that induce and harness CD8+ T cells of the immune system to fight cancer. VOLT licences Vaccitech’s proprietary CD8+ T cell induction platform and research by Benoit Van den Eynde at the Ludwig Oxford Branch, validating this platform with MAGE and NY-ESO-1 cancer antigens, is committed the technology against solid tumour indications.