Scancell Holdings plc, led by Professor Lindy Durrant of the University's Division of Clinical Oncology within the School of Molecular Medical Sciences, believes the new vaccine, which targets tumor 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 and in the last 25 years rates of malignant melanoma have risen faster than for any other cancer. It is now the most common cancer in younger adults aged 15 to 34, which may be linked to risky associated behavior such as exposure to the sun on foreign beach holidays and the use of tanning booths. Every year, most of the 2,000 skin cancer deaths result from malignant melanoma.
Professor Durrant said: "Up until now, early diagnosis has been a crucial factor in the successful treatment of this disease. In the early stages it can be cured by completely removing the skin melanoma by surgery. However, in cases where it has not been picked up until further down the line, we have found that chemotherapy and radiotherapy simply do not work, although new compounds are being tested.
"It is still at a very early stage and impossible to predict the outcome of the clinical trial but if our results from the lab are replicated in patients I think we have a good chance of dramatically improving the chances of successful treatment "we are hoping that the vaccine will cure between 10 and 20 per cent of patients with malignant melanoma.
Testing for the new SCIB1 vaccine has been given approval by the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and clinical trials are due to start shortly at Nottingham City Hospital and centers in Manchester and Newcastle.
It 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 defense systems "it contains DNA and genetic material from tumors meaning it 'switches' on the specific immune cells that target melanoma. This means that it targets only the cancer and not the surrounding healthy tissue.
The team of scientists believe that, in principle, new vaccines based upon the same principle could also be used to target other types of cancer tumors, such as breast and prostate.
The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings. More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five. The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation "School of Pharmacy), and was named 'Entrepreneurial University of the Year' at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research center. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international center of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.