Nottingham scientists test cancer vaccine

SCIB1 could cure malignant melanoma, the most common cancer in 15–34 age group

Nottingham scientists are testing a vaccine, which they hope could reverse, and even cure malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Scancell Holdings, led by Professor Lindy Durrant of the Nottingham University's Division of Clinical Oncology within the School of Molecular Medical Sciences, believes the vaccine, which targets tumour cells without damaging healthy tissue, could be successful in treating patients with malignant melanoma.

Incidences of malignant melanoma have more than quadrupled over the past 30 years as more people take beach holidays in the sun and use tanning booths. It is now the most common cancer in the 15–34 age group. Every year, most of the 2,000 skin cancer deaths in the UK result from malignant melanoma.

The Gene Therapy Advisory Committee and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has approved testing for the new SCIB1 vaccine, which has been developed by Scancell Holdings and is based on the firm’s ImmunoBody technology.

In addition, Scancell’s partner Ichor Medical Systems has obtained the required parallel approval from the MHRA Devices Division for the use of Ichor’s TriGrid electroporation delivery device to administer SCIB1 to patients participating in the Phase 1 clinical trial, which will start shortly at Nottingham City Hospital and centres in Manchester and Newcastle.

Professor Durrant said the research is still at a very early stage and it would be impossible to predict the outcome of the clinical trial, but it could dramatically improve the chances of successful treatment.

‘We are hoping that the vaccine will cure between 10 and 20% of patients with malignant melanoma,’ she said.

The vaccine will initially be given to patients who are suffering from advanced malignant melanoma, which has spread to other parts of the body.

The new vaccine works by activating the body’s own natural defence systems. It contains DNA and genetic material from tumours and generates the specific immune cells that target melanoma. This means that it kills only the cancer and not the surrounding healthy tissue.

New vaccines based upon the same principle could also be used to target other types of cancer tumours, such as breast and prostate.