First Lung Cancer Vaccine Developed in Cuba

Even though Cuba patented the first lung cancer vaccine back in 2008, it might take years for Americans to access its potentially life-saving benefits.

The majority of patients who take the vaccine live up to five months longer than patients who do not, some survive even longer. The drug, CimVax EGF is part of a new class of drugs that are far more targeted than conventional cancer treatments. Unlike chemotherapy, the traditional treatment for lung cancer, CimaVax EGF has few side effects because it is a modified protein that attacks only the cancer cells.

But thanks to the ancient (1962) U.S. embargo on Cuba meant to punish them for their Cold War ideology, U.S. citizens are forbidden from traveling freely to their neighbor to the south.

Cuba for its part is welcoming lung cancer patients from around the world to take part in clinical trials.

“It’s possible to provide this vaccine to any patient, because it’s available in Cuba, it’s approved by the Cuban drug agency so we can market the vaccine in Cuba and we can receive patients from outside,” said Tania Crombet, director of clinical investigations at Havana’s molecular immunology center. “Even though there is a new therapeutic tool approved in Cuba [U.S. citizens] probably wouldn’t be able to come to Cuba to receive it because of the embargo,” said Crombet.

Lung cancer is the most deadly cancer in the world, killing more victims than all other forms of cancer combined. Although the vast majority of lung cancer is directly related to smoking, there are numerous other factors for developing the disease, including exposure to asbestos.