From the island nation known for the quality of its cigars comes some pretty big news today: Xinhua reports that Cuban medical authorities have released the first therapeutic vaccine for lung cancer. CimaVax-EGF is the result of a 25-year research project at Havanaís Center for Molecular Immunology, and it could make a life or death difference for those facing late-stage lung cancers, researchers there say.
CimaVax-EGF isnít a vaccine in the preventative sense--that is, it doesnít prevent lung cancer from taking hold in new patients. Itís based on a protein related to uncontrolled cell proliferation--that is, it doesnít prevent cancer from existing in the first place but attacks the mechanism by which it does harm.
As such it can turn aggressive later-stage lung cancer into a manageable chronic disease by creating antibodies that do battle with the proteins that cause uncontrolled cell proliferation, researchers say. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are still recommended as a primary means of destroying cancerous tissue, but for those showing no improvement the new vaccine could be a literal lifesaver.
The vaccine has already been tested in 1,000 patients in Cuba and is being distributed at hospitals there free of charge. Thatís a big deal for a country where smoking is part of the national culture and a leading cause of death. If it proves as successful as researchers say it is, it should give those suffering from lung cancer reason to celebrate--just not with a Cohiba.
Britons to take part in Cuban lung cancer vaccine trial
British patients will soon take part in a trial of a Cuban-designed therapeutic lung cancer vaccine, the first of its kind, a company executive announced.
"A new clinical study of the therapeutic lung cancer vaccine (called Cimavaz-EFG)" will begin "in a matter of days with a group of patients in the United Kingdom," said Erik D'Hondt, scientific director for the Malaysian drug company Bioven, who is in charge of European distribution of the drug.
D'Hondt did not say how many patients were taking part in the study.
The vaccine was developed by scientists at the Molecular Immunological Center (CIM) in Havana.
Its tests in Cuba found promising results in more than 1,000 patients.
CIM researcher Zoraida Acosta said scientists are encouraged because the drug has shown benefits in terms of extending life span and improving quality of life even in late-stage lung cancer patient.
They say their goal is for the cancer to become an illness that does not progress even if it cannot be cured. The vaccine's potential also is being looked at for treatment of uterine, breast and prostate cancers, Cuban officials said.