• Friday, April 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Scientists close to lung cancer vaccine and blood test for TB

There were two good news from the global medical field Friday morning as scientists said they were close to introducing a blood test that could indicate for tuberculosis which is today the world’s most deadly disease.

There are about 10 million active cases of tuberculosis in the world today with 5,000 recorded in the UK alone last year. Most people suffering TB as it is commonly called, pass on the disease without knowing. Asia accounts for just under half of the world’s tuberculosis infection while about 23 per cent of cases are to be found in Africa.

The simple blood test will make it easier to track the disease and its carriers helping health authorities around the world to slow the infection.

By comparing proteins found in the blood of people with active TB to those in healthy people and patients with lung infections, researchers from the University of Southampton said they have discovered a group of six biological markers that are found in high levels among infectious patients.

Senior doctors say if successful, a blood test that detects these proteins in the bloodstream could help identify the estimated three million cases of the disease which were missed last year, mostly in developing countries, according to Dr Hannah Schiff, lead author and respiratory expert at Southampton University.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is the world’s deadliest infectious disease and kills more than one million people each year, according to World Health Organisation data.

On the other front, scientists in the UK said they were close to a vaccine for lung cancer which affects about 48,500 persons every year in the UK, 72% of which are caused by smoking.

The researchers are seeking to create the world’s first vaccine to prevent lung cancer in people who are at high risk of the disease.

Scientists from the University of Oxford, the Francis Crick Institute and University College London (UCL) have used technology similar to the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to create the “LungVax,” a vaccine which activates the immune system to kill cancer cells and stop lung cancer.

The team has been granted up to £1.7m in funding by charities, Cancer Research UK and the CRIS Cancer Foundation, to manufacture 3,000 doses of the vaccine.

It works by using a strand of DNA which trains the immune system to recognise “red flag” proteins in lung cancer cells – known as neoantigens – and kill them.

However, the LungVax provides a “really important step forward” into a future where cancer is more preventable, Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of the charity, said.

“The science that successfully steered the world out of the pandemic could soon be guiding us toward a future where people can live longer, better lives free from the fear of cancer,” she said.

“We’re in a golden age of research and this is one of many projects which we hope will transform lung cancer survival.”

If the vaccine can successfully show in a lab setting that it triggers an immune response, it will move into a clinical trial. Positive results from this could then lead to bigger trials for people at high risk of the disease.

High-risk people could include those aged 55-74 who currently smoke, have previously smoked and those who qualify for targeted lung health checks in parts of the UK.