Could LungVax be the Game-Changer in Preventing Lung Cancer?

lung cancer vaccine lungvax
16 Apr 2024
10 mins
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Could LungVax be the Game-Changer in Preventing Lung Cancer?

    UK scientists at the University of Oxford have raised funding of 1.7 million euros from Cancer Research UK and the CRIS Cancer Foundation to develop a lung cancer vaccine on March 22, 2024.

    The team is planning to develop a lung cancer vaccine named “LungVax,” which will be the world’s first vaccine to prevent almost all types of lung cancer in high-risk populations. Let us explore the breakthrough potential of this future vaccine, as well as its working mechanism, benefits, and outcomes, in detail.


    The Rationale for LungVax Development


    The rationale behind developing the “LungVax” vaccine is as follows:

    1. Lung cancer is the most often diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.
    2. It is also the deadliest common cancer in Britain, with around 50,000 cases and 35,000 deaths every year.
    3. The difficulty in developing a successful treatment for cancer due to the complexity of cancer cells
    4. Only 10% of people with lung cancer survive their disease for 10 years or more in UK.


    What is the background of developing Lungvax? 

    The background of developing LungVax involves leveraging similar technology to the highly successful Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.


    The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is a type of vector vaccine that utilizes a modified version of a different virus (viral vector) to deliver material from the COVID-19 virus into your cells. This prompts your cells to produce copies of the COVID-19 S protein, which then triggers your immune system to create antibodies.

    Inspired by the success of this approach, India has developed its own vaccine called Covishield. It is a viral vector vaccine developed by the Serum Institute of India, based on the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.


    Why Lungvax?


    We all know that cancer is a disease where our body's cells grow uncontrollably. Hence, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between our normal cells and the cancer cells.


    One of the biggest challenges in cancer research today is getting our immune system to recognize and target these cancer cell among the normal cells. By developing lung cancer vaccines like LungVax, we can aim to address this challenge. If we can replicate the success observed in trials such as Covid vaccines, there is potential to save numerous lives.


    What is the current status of LungVax development?


    The UK researchers at Oxford are currently in the process of developing LungVax. They will initially conduct laboratory tests to assess its ability to trigger an immune response successfully. If the results from these tests are positive, the vaccine will progress to clinical trials.

    Phase 0: Laboratory studies are yet to commence.

    (Expected duration: Over the next 2 years)

    Phase I: Following positive results from lab tests, researchers will proceed with a clinical trial. They will receive funding and commence initial manufacturing of 3,000 doses of the vaccine at the Oxford Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility to evaluate its safety and efficacy.


    Phase II: Then, The vaccine will be tested in a large population at high risk of lung cancer. The inclusion criteria for this phase will include individuals aged 55-74 who are current or former smokers in the UK.


    How is Lungvax expected to work?

    Similar to Covishield, LungVax utilizes harmless proteins from the surface of the patient's cancer cells, known as neoantigens. These neoantigens emerge due to cancer-causing mutations within the cell's DNA. By collecting these neoantigens and introducing them into the bodies of affected individuals, they are recognized as red flags by the immune system. In response, the immune system fights back and becomes trained against these antigens. Consequently, when the body encounters lung cancer cells with these surface proteins (neoantigens), the trained immune system identifies these abnormal cells and destroys them.


    What are the expected outcomes of the LungVax trial?


    1. Reverse the decreased survival rate of lung cancer patients
    2. Preventing the earlised stage lung cancer deom emmerging in its first place
    3. Expected to cover around 90% of all lung cancers.


    LungVax FAQs


    1. Will LungVax replace smoking cessation efforts?

    With an 80% prevalence of smoking among lung cancer patients (in India), quitting smoking and tobacco cessation remain the primary prevention measures for lung cancer. LungVax will not replace smoking cessation efforts, as stopping smoking is the most effective way to reduce the risk of lung cancer. However, LungVax is expected to prevent the progression of early-stage lung cancer and decrease the remission rates for individuals who have already undergone treatment for lung cancer.

    2. Is LungVax the first lung cancer vaccine?

    No, CimaVax-EGF, a vaccine developed in Cuba, has shown promise in early trials for treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It works by stimulating the body's immune system to produce antibodies against a protein called EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor), which is involved in cancer growth. 


    By 2017, In Cuba, it has completed phase IV trials and is approved as a maintenance treatment for certain stages of NSCLC.

    Outside of Cuba, trials are ongoing in the US, EU, Japan, and Serbia. Initial results from trials in the US showed that combining CimaVax with another drug called nivolumab was safe and had promising effects in advanced NSCLC patients. The final results of this trial, released in March 2019, confirmed the safety and efficacy of the combination therapy. Ongoing trials, including a Phase II trial expanded in 2023, aim to assess CimaVax's effectiveness in treating other cancers and different patient groups.


    3. Will vaccines like LungVax be beneficial for the Indian population?

    In India, according to GLOBOCAN statistics from 2018, lung cancer accounts for 5.9% of all cancers (the fourth most common), with 67,000 new cases and 8.1% of all cancer-related deaths. There is an 80% prevalence of smoking among lung cancer patients. Despite efforts to promote tobacco cessation, projects similar to LungVax are crucial steps towards achieving a cancer-free India. With recent reports from Apollo Hospitals labeling India as the "Cancer capital of the world," research projects like LungVax could potentially reverse this trend. By transforming lung cancer into a preventable and manageable disease, such initiatives could significantly improve survival rates and overall public health.

    Written by
    Dr. VijayalakshmiMedical Content Writer
    AboutDr. Vijayalakshmi is a Medical Content Writer at MrMed. She completed her Bachelor of Dentistry (BDS) from Sri Ramakrishna Dental College, Coimbatore, in 2022, where she expertise in dental and clinical research. During her internship, she has also worked on various research projects and presented scientific papers in national UG seminars. Post her UG, she has upskilled in pharmacovigilance regulations and clinical trial methodology through certification courses. She is proficient in researching, writing, editing, and proofreading medical content and blogs.