US to Receive Cancer Vaccine from Cuba

From Fox News:

medical laboratory technician

Closer American ties with one of the world’s major cigar exporters could actually be good news in the fight against lung cancer. Cuba has developed Cimavax, an effective lung cancer vaccine, and American researchers can now finally get their hands on it, reports Wired.

After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Cuba for a trade mission last month, the Buffalo-based Roswell Park Cancer Institute struck a deal with Havana’s Center of Molecular Immunology to develop a vaccine, allowing clinical trials involving Cimavax to begin in the US, Bloomberg reports.

Cimavax, which stops tumors from growing, was 25 years in the making and has been available for free to Cuban patients since 2011, Wired reports. Each shot costs the government about $1. So how did such a small and poor country create a world-leading therapeutic vaccine? Roswell Park CEO Candace Johnson, who hopes to start clinical trials in the US within a year, tells Wired that the country’s biotech industry has thrived despite—and perhaps even because of—the US embargo.

“They’ve had to do more with less, so they’ve had to be even more innovative with how they approach things,” she says. “For over 40 years, they have had a preeminent immunology community.” Experts say they’re excited not just by the potential of Cimavax, but by other novel Cuban cancer treatments that could now be available to US researchers.

After the 1981 dengue fever outbreak struck nearly 350,000 Cubans, the government established the Biological Front, an effort to focus research efforts by various agencies toward specific goals. Its first major accomplishment was the successful (and unexpected) production of interferon, a protein that plays a role in human immune response. Since then, Cuban immunologists made several other vaccination breakthroughs, including their own vaccines for meningitis B and hepatitis B, and monoclonal antibodies for kidney transplants.

A Phase II trial from 2008 showed lung cancer patients who received the vaccine lived an average of four to six months longer than those who didn’t. That prompted Japan and some European countries to initiate Cimavax clinical trials as well.


Even knowing how long the vaccine was in development and after seeing the track record of its results, the FDA will spend months or years on additional clinical trials. When it finally gets put into use, it will certainly cost us much more than a dollar.

It will be interesting to see which big drug company gets their hands on this vaccine, the next big money maker.

Wired goes on to say –

To be fair, Cimavax probably won’t be a game-changing cancer drug in its current form. The vaccine doesn’t attack tumors directly, instead going after a protein that tumors produce which then circulates in the blood. That action spurs a person’s body to release antibodies against a hormone called epidermal growth factor, which typically spurs cell growth but can also, if unchecked, cause cancer. (Although most people normally think of a vaccine as something that prevents a disease, technically a vaccine is a substance that stimulates the immune system in some way.) So the point of Cimavax is to keep lung tumors from growing and metastasizing, turning a late-stage growth into something chronic but manageable.

Epidermal growth factor plays an important role in many other cancers, like prostate, breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer. “All those things are potential targets for this vaccine,” says Kelvin Lee, an immunologist at the company. Mostly for financial reasons, Cubans didn’t test Cimavax that way at all.

I give them kudos for testing to see if it’s effective on other types of cancer, but there are a number of cancer patients who need it now.


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11 Responses to US to Receive Cancer Vaccine from Cuba

  1. Garnet92 says:

    Admittedly, I haven’t been scouring the drug news for new breakthroughs in cancer treatments, but how has this drug escaped more extensive publicity? Why haven’t cancer patients been trafficking in black-market purchases of the drug? I’m at a loss to understand how this drug has escaped more widespread exposure?

    • Kathy says:

      This hasn’t made headlines because American grant-funded researchers didn’t discover it and want to hang onto their funding, and according to Wired, we have similar drugs, so the question is why didn’t they test those for additional uses, as they’ll do with Cimavax.

      To a large degree the whole cancer treatment business is a huge racket. Treatment and drugs are overly expensive with no preventative measures in sight.

  2. tannngl says:

    Indeed, Kathy, I’m quite shocked we are going to Cuba for a cancer vaccine!
    And you’re right about the $$$ it will cost us …if and when it reaches the public.

    I’m so angry at the” research” being done by US scientists against cancer. We have been funding this stuff since way back in the beginning of the last century. And here we are with little progress in any of it. Where has all the money gone? (I’ve become very jaded by the information that’s come out on the research for global warming, the use of the money, the lies).

    Good, very good post.

    • tannngl says:

      About my being jaded by GW research, I’m referring to the fraud that has perpetuated this ‘research’. I don’t trust much anymore. Guess it’s old age.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, the endless research with few result angers me too, as do the never-ending fundraisers and telethons. I always go back to the MDA telethons where we’ve watched Jerry Lewis host for over 50 years, yet they still need more money and they have no cure.

      Much of that money goes toward assistance for those afflicted, I know, but you’d think in all these years they’d have found some answers. We see the same thing with regard to other horrible diseases.

  3. Uriel says:

    Per the info I was given, Pennington was a researcher back in the 60’s when he was diagnosed with cancer. He and his team worked out a cocktail that he used on himself. The results far exceeded expectations BUT was suppressed. Supposedly, all notes and results disappeared. Even after his eventual death, the research center still does a lot of cancer research but nothing provided that level without radiation or chemo therapy. In fact in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s it was known and doctor’s manuals stated that there were natural cures. Big pharms suppressed because it took away their monies and prestige.

    • Kathy says:

      Big pharm and the government…directing the money where they want, as usual. That name, Pennington, sounds familiar – I’m thinking I’ve read that story somewhere.

  4. Garnet92 says:

    Uriel’s comment really brings out the cynic in me. It reminds me of the talk about the device (some called it a carburetor) that would allow cars to run on water, but supposedly Big Oil nipped it in the bud.

    And now the pharmaceutical companies – could it be that there have been one or more cancer “cures” that were “put on the shelf” in favor of other more profitable drugs? I want to think that it’s unlikely – if there were a real cancer “cure” just think of how much money could be made on it. And think of the success stories, especially if it was a “cure” that required recurring treatments for patients who would go on to live longer lives.

    I certainly DO think that Big Drugs would do whatever generated the most profits – they’re not altruistic in nature – but if that ever became public knowledge, whatever company hid that info would be toast.

    • Kathy says:

      For a long time I’ve felt there was a cure they weren’t sharing with us because of the big bucks the industry generates, but they explain it away by saying there are too many variations of cancer that makes it impossible to find a cure. Whatever, but it still leaves a question mark in my mind.

      I’ve seen firsthand, more than one instance where natural treatments were very effective, but they’re hard to come by. Vitamin C drips is one, but there are fewer and fewer places providing them because the medical world shuts them down.

  5. Clyde says:

    Doesn’t matter, the name of the game in WAY too many of these disease groups i.e Komen, ACS, AHA, ad nauseum, is to feed the fundraising beast, finding an actual cure, not so much.