News & Events

CRUK deploy “Agent EBV” to crowd-source immune studies linked to cancer vaccine trial

Article Date: 20.11.14
Category: Clinical Trials


Cancer Research UK are linking up with CIIC researchers Dr Graham Taylor and Dr Neil Steven in a novel crowd-sourcing approach to fund key scientific studies linked to a clinical trial of a cancer vaccine.

The Phase Ib clinical trial tests the ability of a vaccine against the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), to treat a small group of patients with Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPC), a type of head and neck cancer strongly linked to EBV.

Although EBV infection is common, aside from causing glandular fever, which normally gets better by itself, EBV is usually harmless, however occasionally the virus can catalyse cancer development.

NPC is the most common EBV-linked cancer but the virus is also linked to Hodgkin’s and other lymphomas, and 10% of stomach cancers. Some 200,000 cases of EBV cancers occur each year worldwide.

The trial stems from decades of research by Dr Steven, Dr Taylor and in particular Professor Alan Rickinson at the University of Birmingham, who have used the results of their research to guide the vaccine development.

Dr Neil Steven (left), Prof Alan Rickinson (middle), and Dr Graham Taylor (right)

Dr Neil Steven (left), Prof Alan Rickinson (middle), and Dr Graham Taylor (right)

The crowd-sourcing approach, outlined at, involves an animated “Agent EBV”, as well as an animated Dr Neil Steven, and aims to achieve donations of £40,000 over a one month period, to fund key additional studies.

The funds will enable the research team to carry out additional scientific studies linked to the trial, with the aim of discovering which immune pathways are active in the patient’s tumours, how patients’ tumours might evade the immune system, and which genetic mistakes lead to tumour development. This in turn will help the team develop future therapeutic approaches.

Dr Taylor outlined the importance of these extra studies. “The more detailed results we obtain from the trial, the faster we can move the vaccine forward, bringing us closer to beating cancer.”

To find out more and donate to the fightingebv campaign, visit