Studies at the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research in collaboration with Oxford scientists took one of the viral vectors used in the Covid-19 vaccine to treat mice.
Results showed an increase in the mice’s T-cells, the defence the body uses to attack and kill invading cancers.
The anti-cancer vaccine was designed to target two MAGE-type proteins found on many cancer cells and shrank tumours and prolonged survival rates.
Plans are now underway for a human clinical trial, which will comprise 80 patients and target non-small cell lung cancer (NSLC).
NSLC is one of the most deadly forms of the disease with almost 50,000 people in Britain diagnosed each year.
Benoit Van den Eynde, professor of tumour immunology at the University of Oxford, said: “We knew that MAGE-type proteins act like red flags on the surface of cancer cells to attract immune cells that destroy tumours.
“Importantly for target specificity, MAGE-type antigens are not present on the surface of normal tissues, which reduces the risk of side effects caused by the immune system attacking healthy cells.”
The hope is that the jab can be used as part of a suite of immunotherapy treatments to spark a patient’s T-cells to destroy tumours.
New immunotherapy treatments, such as Anti-PD-1 blockers, have revolutionised cancer treatment, but effectiveness wanes over time and some patients don’t have enough T-cells for the process to work.
The Oxford jab, though, boosted the levels of T-cells that can infiltrate and destroy the cancerous cells and might be a way to solve this.
Shares in AstraZeneca rose 0.4% to 8,649p