Researchers at the University of Oxford have received a grant of £1.7 million to develop a vaccine for lung cancer.

The research is a joint endeavour between scientists from the University of Oxford, the Francis Crick Institute, and University College London.

The funding, awarded over the next two years, has been provided by Cancer Research UK and the CRIS Cancer Foundation.

The team will use the money to fund lab research as well as the initial manufacturing of 3,000 doses of the vaccine at the Oxford Clinical BioManufacturing Facility.

The 'LungVax' vaccine uses technology similar to that utilised in the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

Professor Sarah Blagden, founder of the LungVax project, said: "We are developing a vaccine to stop the formation of lung cancer in people at high risk.

"This is an important step forward in preventing this devastating disease."

This new application aims to train the immune system to recognise distinct "red flag" proteins named neoantigens which appear on abnormal lung cells because of cancer-causing mutations in the cell's DNA.

If the vaccine proves successful, it will move straight into a clinical trial.

Research lead for the LungVax project, Professor Tim Elliott, said: "Cancer is a disease of our own bodies and it’s hard for the immune system to distinguish between what’s normal and what’s cancer.

"Getting the immune system to recognise and attack cancer is one of the biggest challenges in cancer research today."

He added: "This research could deliver an off-the-shelf vaccine based on Oxford’s vaccine technology, which proved itself in the Covid-19 pandemic. 

"If we can replicate the kind of success seen in trials during the pandemic, we could save the lives of tens of thousands of people every year in the UK alone."

Lung cancer impacts roughly 48,500 individuals each year within the UK with 72 per cent of such cases caused by smoking.

Professor Mariam Jamal-Hanjani, who will be heading the LungVax clinical trial, said: "Fewer than 10 per cent of people with lung cancer survive their disease for 10 years or more.

"That must change. This research complements existing efforts through lung health checks to detect lung cancer earlier in people who are at greatest risk."

She added that the vaccine, based on computer models and previous research, could cover "around 90 per cent of all lung cancers."

Chief executive of Cancer Research UK, Michelle Mitchell, said: "Projects like LungVax are a really important step forward into an exciting future, where cancer is much more preventable."

Lola Manterola, president of CRIS Cancer Foundation, also supported the research, calling it a "firm step" towards preventing cancer.