Cancer Research UK and the CRIS [Cancer Research Innovation in Science] Cancer Foundation have awarded a £1.7m ($2.1m) grant to researchers at the University of Oxford, the Francis Crick Institute and University College London to develop the lung cancer vaccine LungVax.

The funds will support the creation of the world’s first vaccine to prevent lung cancer in high-risk individuals.

The potential vaccine will use technology similar to the successful Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

Similar to standard vaccines, LungVax will use neoantigens – harmless proteins from the surface of cancer cells – to train the immune system to recognise and fight abnormal lung cells.

Neoantigens result from mutations in the cell’s DNA that signal the immune system to target and destroy the cells, potentially stopping lung cancer before it starts.

The research team will conduct laboratory tests to determine if the vaccine can effectively trigger an immune response. On obtaining positive test results, it will be progressed to clinical trials.

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Up to 2026, the team will receive a grant supporting lab research and the initial production of 3,000 vaccine doses at the Oxford clinical biomanufacturing facility.

The vaccine could be expanded to larger trials targeting high-risk groups such as current or former smokers aged between 55 and 74 years.

These demographics are eligible for targeted lung health checks in some UK regions.

Researchers estimate that the vaccine could address approximately 90% of all lung cancers.

Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell stated: “Projects like LungVax are a really important step forward into an exciting future, where cancer is much more preventable.

“We’re in a golden age of research and this is one of many projects which we hope will transform lung cancer survival.”