The Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust in the UK has announced the commencement of a clinical trial analysing a vaccine aimed at treating early-stage bowel cancer in patients from both the UK and Australia.

The Cancer Research UK Southampton Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Southampton will conduct the trial in conjunction with the Trust and Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Clinical stage immuno-oncology company Imugene designed the vaccine.

A total of ten sites are designated for patient enrolment—six in Australia and four in the UK—with the aim to recruit 44 participants over 18 months.

Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust Consultant Medical Oncologist Dr Tony Dhillon is the trial’s chief investigator.

Dhillon put forward the trial concept and partnered with professor Tim Price in Australia for the past four years for developing the vaccine.

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Dhillon said: “This is the first treatment vaccine in any gastrointestinal cancer, and we have high hopes that it will be very successful. We think that for a lot of patients, the cancer will have gone completely after this treatment.

“The vaccine makes the immune system go after the cancer. It will be life changing because it means that potentially, patients may not need to have surgery – they may just have the vaccine.”

The treatment strategy involves administering the vaccine to patients prior to surgery, potentially reducing the extent of surgical intervention required. Additionally, there is optimism that the vaccine’s potency could bolster the immune system’s response in the event of cancer recurrence.

Eligibility for the trial will be determined through endoscopy and tissue sample analysis.

Qualified patients will receive three doses of the vaccine before undergoing surgical removal of the cancer.

Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Louise Stead said: “We are hugely proud to have been involved in the launch of this ground-breaking new vaccine.

“As the fourth largest cancer centre in the UK, helping to fight cancer is a huge part of what we do, and this will really provide an opportunity for bowel cancer patients and give them real hope of beating the disease.”