Cuba Develops First registered Lung Cancer Vaccine
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- Business and Economy
- Health and Medicine
- Science and Technology
- 02 / 26 / 2009
Gonzalez and her team have worked on developing the CimaVax EGF vaccine at the Cuban Center of Molecular Immunology since the early 1990s.
She says all those years of hard work have finally paid off as trials show that Cubans with lung cancer are living a little longer after having the vaccine.
"One of my early patients was a 32-year-old man when he started taking the vaccine. I had a son that age," the scientist said.
"Now he's 35. He's living and working. He visited us the other day and said he's thinking about having kids."
Gonzalez says that more than 700 patients have received the vaccine over the years, many of them in seven clinical trials in Cuba, Canada and the UK.
More than 400 advanced lung cancer patients received the Vaccine CimaVax EGF in the trials, according to the Latin American News Agency.
The trials showed that the drug extended the life of terminal patients by an average of four months, and in some cases several years, compared with those patients who only received traditional therapies. Younger patients tended to fare better.
CimaVax EGF does not prevent or cure lung cancer. It is a therapeutic vaccine which stimulates the patient's body to make an antibody against the epidermal growth factor (EGF), which is a key driver causing lung cancer cells to grow.
It is used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation therapy which reduce the size of the initial tumor.
"With this kind of product, maybe cancer, advanced cancer, can be treated like any other chronic disease like diabetes," Dr. Gonzalez said during a recent tour of her modern laboratory in Havana.
CimaVax EGF is now part of routine treatment for advanced lung cancer patients as medical services, even the most costly, are freely available for Cubans.