Scancell and Cancer Research UK team up to run a first clinical trial for a cancer vaccine with potential to treat multiple types of solid tumors, starting from lung cancer. 

Oxford-based Scancell has entered a partnership with Cancer Research UK (CRUK) that will let it test one of its cancer vaccines in a first clinical trial in humans. CRUK will fully fund and manage a Phase I/II trial with Scancell’s vaccine in combination with a checkpoint inhibitor in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

The vaccine, called SCIB2, consists of a DNA plasmid encoding an antibody that directs the immune system to attack the tumoral antigen NY-ESO-1. This antigen is present in a wide range of solid tumors, which makes SCIB2 a potential treatment for multiple types of cancer including NSCLC, neuroblastoma, melanoma, sarcoma, oesophageal, ovarian, bladder and prostate cancers.

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Scancell already has positive clinical data from another cancer vaccine based on the same technology than SCIB2 in patients with melanoma. And preclinical data in animal models has revealed that combining SCIB2with checkpoint inhibitors — drugs that disrupt cancer cells’ mechanisms to hide from the immune system — results in greater tumor destruction and longer survival than when the therapies are administered alone.

Scancell cancer vaccine

Once the trial is complete, Scancell has the option to acquire the rights to the data and continue clinical development of the vaccine by itself. If it decides not to, CRUK will retain the rights to take the development forward and find an alternative partner to run following trials. This is part of CRUK’s Centre for Drug Development (CCD) initiative, which takes promising cancer therapies through early clinical development when the company that develops it cannot do it by itself.

The model seems to be working. In the past 25 years, CRUK has taken 140 cancer therapies to the clinic. Six have already made it into the market, including temozolomide for brain cancer, abiraterone for prostate cancer and rucaparib for ovarian cancer. And two of the 30 currently in the CCD’s pipeline are in Phase III trials.

The success rate of this model is not different from that of a pharmaceutical company. Which is remarkable given that CRUK is a charity fully funded by donations, without government subsidies. A great example for emerging institutions bidding for the non-profit model in biotech.


Images via Jezper /Shutterstock; Scancell

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