A University of Oxford researcher is testing a revolutionary vaccine to prevent the onset of lung cancer

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The fight against cancer has been decades in the works, killing millions of people every year as researchers struggle to find a cure for the disease’s various mutations.  

That might soon change, with researchers at the University of Oxford in the process of developing a potential cure for one of the world’s most prevalent and deadly forms of cancer.

Speaking to Spanish publication El País, Oxford researcher Sarah Blagden said she hoped a prospective vaccine to guard against lung cancer might be the first step in one injection being used to guard against all major cancers by the age of 40.

Blagden is part of the research team working on LungVax, a world-first attempt to prevent lung cancer with a vaccine, using technology developed for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

There are other attempts to prevent cancer with a shot—researchers in the U.S. are developing a vaccine to prevent colorectal cancer. The HPV vaccine also indirectly helps prevent the development of cervical cancer in women.

The LungVax vaccine seeks to stamp out one of the most deadly cancers, lung cancer, which is responsible for about 1.8 million deaths globally each year.

The group expects to start recruiting patients in 2026. If it proves a success, a vaccine to prevent lung cancer might be available for the public within 10 years.

“We think the vaccine could cover around 90% of all lung cancers, based on our computer models and previous research, and this funding will allow us to take the vital first steps towards trials in patients,” said Mariam Jamal-Hanjani, a professor at University College London and the lead on the LungVax clinical trial, as the group announced a £1.7 million ($2.1 million).

“LungVax will not replace stopping smoking as the best way to reduce your risk of lung cancer. But it could offer a viable route to preventing some of the earliest stage cancers from emerging in the first place.”

Researchers appear to be in a race against time to more effectively treat and prevent cancer as global populations age, ramping up the pressure on healthcare services.    

In February, the World Health Organization warned global cancer rates were expected to rise by 77% by 2050. In addition to aging, obesity and alcohol and tobacco use are expected to play a role in the uptick in cases.

Blagden hopes that eventually, major cancers will be prevented with a simple doctor’s appointment to receive a life-changing injection. “Ultimately, what I would love to see is a vaccine given to everyone at a certain age, around 40 or 50, to protect them from the major cancers later on in life. That’s where I think we should be, but we have to start somewhere,” Blagden told El País.

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