Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) in Oxford, UK, has begun a clinical trial of a messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine to treat patients with head and neck cancer.

The first subject has been treated in Oxfordshire following the start of the trial.

OUH is carrying out the trial across multiple study centres in Oxford, Southampton and Liverpool.

It will enrol patients with HPV-16 positive advanced, metastatic or unresectable cancers.

Led by OUH consultant clinical oncologist Dr Ketan Shah, the second phase study will evaluate whether the vaccine can boost the effectiveness of immunotherapy. 

Dr Shah said: “This is the first mRNA cancer vaccine trial open in Oxford. 

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“We signed up to this study before Covid-19 made mRNA vaccine technology famous! It is an area we all think will expand rapidly.

“New technology needs to be tested thoroughly against what we currently offer, but we all hope that this approach could be transformative to patient care.” 

mRNA cancer vaccines are understood to provide the cancer blueprint for the patient’s immune system, facilitating in detecting and killing the cancer cells. 

OUH is analysing a vaccine manufactured by BioNTech, which also produced the Pfizer-BioNtech mRNA vaccine for Covid-19. 

University of Oxford academic clinical lecturer and national cancer vaccine advance senior government advisor Dr Lennard Lee said: “The Oxford Cancer Centre at OUH has been very successful in bringing new opportunities for patients and is leading the charge for mRNA cancer vaccine trials.

“These mRNA cancer vaccines could be the silver lining of recent years, and an amazing tool for those affected by cancer.”

Earlier this year, the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) was chosen as the first UK site to begin the BioNTech mRNA cancer vaccine trial in patients with high-risk stage II and stage III colorectal cancers. 

The trial is expected to enrol 10,000 subjects across the UK.

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