Oncologist Discussing Medications with a Senior Patient
A male Oncologist of Middle Eastern decent sits with a senior patient as they discuss her medications. The patient is dressed casually and wearing a head scarf to keep her warm as she looks at the tablet in the doctors hands, and her prescriptions can be seen sitting out on the exam table beside her.

The first patient has received a personalized vaccine in a clinical trial as part of NHS England’s new Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad. The plan is that thousands of patients in England will gain access to personalized cancer vaccine trials through the new “matchmaking” service for patients and drug developers.

Thirty hospitals in England are already signed up to the Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad—one of the biggest projects of its kind in the world. More sites are joining the platform over the coming months.

To start, the program is recruiting patients with bladder, colorectal, kidney, lung, skin, and pancreatic cancers, but more types, at NHS sites across the country, will be added as the program progresses.

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS national clinical director for cancer at the NHS said, “We know that even after a successful operation, cancers can sometimes return because a few cancer cells are left in the body, but using a vaccine to target those remaining cells may be a way to stop this happening.

Father of four Elliot Pfebve, was the first patient to participate. He received his vaccine at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, one of several sites taking part in the colorectal cancer vaccine trial sponsored by BioNTech.

Patients who agree to take part have a sample of their cancer tissue and a blood test taken. If they meet a clinical trial’s eligibility criteria, they can be referred to their nearest participating NHS site. Trials have already enlisted dozens of patients, although the majority of participants are expected to be enrolled from 2026 onwards.

The vaccines being evaluated in the colorectal cancer trial are based on mRNA—the same technology used for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. A patient’s tumor is analyzed to identify specific mutations and an experimental individualized cancer vaccine is created.

These vaccines are designed to induce an immune response by stimulating the patient’s immune system to specifically recognize and destroy any remaining cancer cells.

The investigational cancer vaccines being jointly developed by biopharmaceutical companies BioNTech and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, are still undergoing trials and have not yet been approved by regulators.

Pfebve, 55, had no cancer symptoms and was diagnosed through a routine health check with his GP. A computed tomography (CT) scan and a colonoscopy confirmed he had colon cancer and he then had surgery to remove the tumor and 30 cm of his large intestine. He was next referred for initial rounds of chemotherapy and to take part in a clinical trial.

Pfebve said, “Through the potential of this trial, if it is successful, it may help thousands, if not millions of people, so they can have hope, and may not experience all I have gone through. I hope this will help other people.”

The Launch Pad aims to expand and work with a range of partners in the pharmaceutical industry to include patients across many cancer types who could potentially join a vaccine trial, such as those with pancreatic and lung cancer.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said, “Seeing Elliot receive his first treatment as part of the Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad is a landmark moment for patients and the health service as we seek to develop better and more effective ways to stop this disease.

“Thanks to advances in care and treatment, cancer survival is at an all-time high in this country, but these vaccine trials could one day offer us a way of vaccinating people against their own cancer to help save more lives.

“The NHS is in a unique position to deliver this kind of world-leading research at size and scale, and as more of these trials get up and running at hospitals across the country, our national match-making service will ensure as many eligible patients as possible get the opportunity to access them.”

Last year, the government signed an agreement with BioNTech to provide up to 10,000 patients with precision cancer immunotherapies by 2030.

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