Scientists in Britain are to conduct a bigger trial of a vaccine against the most common form of lung cancer after a smaller test substantially increased survival time for many.
The vaccine called Stimuvax was tested in a study involving 171 patients who had responded to conventional treatment and suggested that the vaccine might be helping some patients in their fight against the cancer, reported the online edition of BBC News.
The vaccine was developed following research funded by Cancer Research UK, and the technology was licensed to be developed by Canadian biotech firm Biomira.
Now over 1,300 patients worldwide will help test the vaccine that works by stimulating the body's own immune system to attack cancer cells.
The vaccine is aimed at the non-small cell type of lung cancer, which accounts for four-fifths of cases in Britain. More than 37,000 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in Britain in 2003, and death rates remain high.
Currently, patients receive combinations of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Half the people taking part in the worldwide trial will get treatment plus the vaccine, while the other half will get just the treatment and a dummy vaccine called a placebo, so that scientists can compare survival rates in the two groups.
If these large-scale trials yield similarly positive results, the vaccine could eventually be made more widely available to lung cancer patients.
"The translation of basic research into patient benefit is the major focus of our work and we hope that new ventures will lead to many more such drugs entering trials in the future," said Harpal Kumar, chief operating officer of Cancer Research UK.