Cuba Found A Cancer Vaccine! More Than Four Thousand People Have Already Been Cured By It
Cuba has long been known for its high-quality cigars, and lung cancer is a major public health problem and the fourth-leading cause of death in the country.
A 2007 study of patients with stages IIIB and IV lung cancer, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, confirmed the safety of the CimaVax and showed an increase in tumor-reducing antibody production in more than half of cases.
It proved particularly effective for increased survival if the study participant was younger than 60.
CimaVax induces people to build antibodies against a certain growth factor that cancer cells make. For people who already have lung cancer, this response results in the body actually getting rid of the cancer cells.
And for people who are currently healthy but at high risk for lung cancer — say, a lung cancer patient in remission — the treatment acts as a vaccine to prevent future relapse.
Johnson envisions that it could one day be a standard preventive vaccine that a person gets in childhood, much like the way we get vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps and rubella.
In addition to CimaVax, Roswell Park scientists are also reviewing other vaccine approaches from researchers at Cuba’s Center of Molecular Immunology (where CimaVax was invented) that could one day help patients overcome brain and pancreas cancer, as well as blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. While they aren’t as far along as CimaVax, Johnson said she is excited for the possibility these other treatments hold.
“They are a very innovative group of scientists, and they have vaccines and drugs that we think could play a very significant role in our fight against cancer,” she said.
“We’re delighted to be working with them and we hope very soon that we can start our trial on CimaVax — hopefully the first of many clinical trials to be done with some of these Cuban vaccine approaches.”
It’s a therapeutic vaccine that works by targeting the tumor itself, specifically going after the proteins that allow a tumor to keep growing. (And as PBS points out, a person can’t just take a shot of CimaVax and continue to smoke without fear of lung cancer.)
“We hope to determine in the next few years whether giving CimaVax to patients who’ve had a lung cancer removed, or maybe even to people at high risk of developing lung or head-and-neck cancers because of a history of heavy smoking, may be beneficial and may spare those people from having a cancer diagnosis or recurrence,” Lee said.
So far, 5,000 patients worldwide have been treated with CimaVax, including 1,000 patients in Cuba. Lee said the latest Cuban study of 405 patients, which has not yet been published, confirms earlier findings about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
“We think it may be an effective way to prevent cancer from developing or recurring, so that’s where a lot of our team’s excitement comes in,” Lee said. “There’s good reason to believe that this vaccine may be effective in both treating and preventing several types of cancer, including not only lung but breast, colorectal, head-and-neck, prostate and ovarian cancers, so the potential positive impact of this approach could be enormous.”