A project supported by a 6 million euro grant from the European Union to develop biomarker-guided actively personalised vaccines to treat glioblastoma, the aggressive form of brain cancer with poor prognosis, has been launched.

A consortium has been set up consisting of 14 organisations from the biotech industry and academia "with cutting-edge expertise in cancer vaccine development". It will be led by German firms Immatics and BioNTech and the other partners include institutions in Spain, the UK, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands, as well as the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in the USA.

At the core of the project is a multinational Phase I trial which will enroll up to 30 newly-diagnosed glioblastoma patients and is expected to start in 2014. They will be repetitively immunised with a vaccine specifically prepared for each individual in addition to standard chemotherapy after surgery and initial radiochemotherapy are completed.

The trial will be accompanied by an extensive biomarker programme led by the Association of Cancer Immunotherapy, a non-profit organisation, and Immatics to confirm the mechanism-of-action and to identify which patients are most likely to benefit from treatment with the personalised vaccines.

Harpreet Singh, Immatics' chief scientific officer, said the consortium represents an exciting step forward as "the first project exploring actively personalised therapeutic cancer vaccines at a European level". He added that if successful, "this novel approach could create a completely new way to treat cancer".