The first UK clinical trial of a combined stem cell and gene therapy for lung cancer will go ahead with National Health Service patients later this year, the Medical Research Council has confirmed.

The experimental procedure - which uses stem cells to deliver a potent anti-cancer gene that induces a self-destruct pathway in diseased cells, leaving healthy tissues untouched - has been shown to reduce or even clear tumours in early tests with mice.

A research team - led by Sam Janes at UCL/UCLH - will now test the treatment in human volunteers, first to check safety and then efficacy compared with standard care. Each patient in the trial will receive almost a billion cells over three infusions, three weeks apart (injected one day after they receive chemotherapy).

“If clinical trials are successful, our treatment could be transformative for the treatment of lung cancer, and possibly other types of tumour in future,” said Professor Janes, commenting on its potential.

The trial is being funded by a £2 million grant from the UK’s Biomedical Catalyst, which is managed jointly by the MRC and Innovate UK. Chris Watkins, Director of Translational Research at the MRC, said the new therapy “is truly at the cutting edge and will draw on the UK’s unique position as a leader in the field of cell-based therapies”.