Liverpool will become the first place in the UK to test a new cancer vaccine. Experts at The Clatterbridge Centre helped develop the drug to treat pancreatic cancer which can be used in conjunction with traditional treatments.
Pancreatic cancer is responsible for over 9,000 deaths in the UK every year, with less than four per cent of patients surviving five years or more after diagnosis. The inability to recognise symptoms and the unique formation of the cancer tumour make it difficult to provide patients with the life-saving treatment they need.
Professor Daniel Palmer, chair of medical oncology and one of the trial leads at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre for the pancreatic cancer vaccine, commented: “The new cancer vaccine is a form of immunotherapy which will be used after initial surgery to remove the tumour in the pancreas. It will work to manipulate the body’s immune system to recognise microscopic cancer cells, meaning a patient is able to fight any remaining cells before the cancer forms again in any other parts of the body.”
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and the Royal Liverpool University Hospital have just recruited the world’s first patient to the trial, Mr Allan Helliar. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2013 and went on to have an operation to remove his tumour on Christmas Eve.
Talking about having the brand new vaccine alongside his treatment, Alan said: “I see it as a bit of an insurance policy to be honest. I want to give myself the best quality of life to enjoy with my wife Angela and our children and grandchildren. Also, I can’t thank everyone enough for the way I’ve been looked after so far and it’s fantastic to think I could be part of proving the vaccine is a potentially life-saving form of treatment.
“I’ve just had my first few doses of the vaccine and will continue to visit my consultant for the next six months but so far, everything is going brilliantly. It’s a really simple form of treatment and I’m in and out of the room in minutes.”
The aim of the trial is to prove that a combined treatment method adding the vaccine to standard chemotherapy should become a standard of care for those patients undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer and at risk of subsequent relapse.
The pancreatic cancer vaccine trial is currently taking place at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre on the Wirral, in a number of Norwegian cancer centres and at The Christie, based in Manchester.