Researchers will bring the vaccine stateside and also track it because that the FDA therefore it deserve to be manufactured and sold in the US.

You are watching: Cuba has a lung cancer vaccine


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Lung cancer. Coloured X-ray that the chest of one 84 year old woman v a malignant (cancerous) tumour (yellow) in the apex the the best lung (top left).

DU CANE clinical IMAGING LTD/Getty Images

Cuba has actually for numerous years had actually a promising therapeutic vaccine versus lung cancer. The 55-year trade embargo led by the united state made certain that Cuba was largely where that stayed. Until---maybe---now.

The Obama management has, the course, to be trying come normalize relations with the island nation. And last month, during new York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's visit come Havana, Roswell Park Cancer institute finalized an agreement with Cuba's center for molecular Immunology to develop a lung cancer vaccine and begin clinical trials in the US. Essentially, united state researchers will bring the Cimavax vaccine stateside and get on track for approval through the Food and also Drug Administration.


"The chance to evaluate a vaccine prefer this is a an extremely exciting prospect," says Candace Johnson, CEO of Roswell Park. She's excited, most likely, because research on the vaccine so much shows that it has low toxicity, and it's relatively cheap to produce and also store. The facility for molecule Immunology will give Roswell Park all of the documentation (how it's produced, toxicity data, results from past trials) for an FDA medicine application; Johnson states she wishes to acquire approval for testing Cimavax within six to eight months, and to begin clinical trials in a year.


How did Cuba finish up with a state-of-the-art immuno-oncology drug? though the country is justly renowned for cigars, rum, and baseball, it likewise has several of the best and also most inventive biotech and also medical research study in the world. That's specifically notable for a nation where the mean worker earns $20 a month. Cuba safety a fraction of the money the united state does on healthcare per individual; yet the median Cuban has actually a life expectations on par v the typical American. "They've had actually to do much more with less," says Johnson, "so they've had actually to it is in even more innovative with exactly how they approach things. Because that over 40 years, they have had a preeminent immunology community."

Despite decades of financial sanctions, Fidel and also Raul Castro do biotechnology and also medical research, specifically preventative medicine, a priority. After the 1981 dengue heat outbreak struck virtually 350,000 Cubans, the government created the organic Front, an effort to emphasis research efforts by various agencies toward specific goals. Its first major success was the successful (and unexpected) manufacturing of interferon, a protein that plays a duty in human immune response. Due to the fact that then, Cuban immunologists make several other vaccination breakthroughs, including their very own vaccines because that meningitis B and also hepatitis B, and monoclonal antibodies because that kidney transplants.


The thing about making such an excellent cigars is, cigarette smoking is really, really bad for you. Lung cancer is the fourth-leading cause of the death in Cuba. Medical researchers in ~ the facility for molecule Immunology worked on Cimavax for 25 years before the set of health and wellness made it available to the public---for free---in 2011. Every shot costs the government about $1. A phase II trial native 2008 confirmed lung cancer patients who got the vaccine lived an median of four to 6 months longer than those who didn't. That prompted Japan and some European countries to start Cimavax clinical trials as well.


To it is in fair, Cimavax more than likely won't it is in a game-changing cancer medicine in its present form. The vaccine doesn't strike tumors directly, instead going after a protein that tumors create which climate circulates in the blood. That activity spurs a person's body to release antibodies against a hormone dubbed epidermal expansion factor, which frequently spurs cell growth however can also, if unchecked, cause cancer. (Although most people normally think the a vaccine together something that prevents a disease, technically a vaccine is a substance the stimulates the immune mechanism in some way.) for this reason the allude of Cimavax is to keep lung tumors indigenous growing and also metastasizing, transforming a late-stage growth into something chronic yet manageable.

But in the US and Europe, human being with lung cancer already have treatment choices with the very same goal. Roswell Park researchers say they arrangement to check out the vaccine's potential together a preventative intervention---making it more like a classic vaccine. Furthermore, epidermal development factor plays an important role in plenty of other cancers, choose prostate, breast, colon, and also pancreatic cancer. "All those things room potential targets for this vaccine," states Kelvin Lee, one immunologist at the company. Greatly for gaue won reasons, Cubans didn't test Cimavax that way at all.

And that medicine isn't the only one through potential in the Cuban pharmacopeia. Thomas Rothstein, a biologist in ~ the Feinstein academy for clinical Research, has actually for six years worked with the facility for molecule Immunology on another vaccine come treat lung cancer referred to as Racotumomab, with an entirely various mechanism. (It messes with a particular lipid found in tumor cell membranes.) "Investigators from about the people are do the efforts to cracked the nut of cancer," Rothstein says. "The Cubans are thinking in means that are novel and clever."

Although chairman Obama has actually used his executive strength to lift some restrictions against medical and research equipment, Congress must lift the Cuban embargo before collaborative research have the right to ramp up. Johnson really hopes to check out Cuba embrace an ext entrepreneurialism in science, and see the us soak up more creative approaches to clinical research. Constrained through politics, the Cuban researchers had actually to innovate in means the US and also Europe walk not. Currently maybe they'll be able to teach their colleagues what they learned.

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