Possible lung cancer vaccine another perk stemming from U.S.-Cuba relations

This 2013 file photo shows a woman holding a lit cigarette in her Haynesville, Alabama home. Some American oncologists are excited over a push for FDA testing for a Cuban-developed vaccine that may help stop tumor growth in lung cancer patients. (AP file)

(MEDIA GENERAL) – American oncologists are paying close attention to a new vaccine developed by Cuban doctors that may help treat lung cancer, an encouraging byproduct of burgeoning U.S.-Cuba relations.

According to an ABC News report, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, is working with Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology to bring the treatment stateside and work toward winning approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The vaccine, Cimavax, is a therapeutic anticancer vaccine developed through a 25-year research project. Cimavax helps the body produce a protein that targets a naturally occurring hormone called epidermal growth factor (EGF). Dr. Kelvin Lee, the chairman of the Department of Immunology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, told ABC News that Cimavax neither cures nor prevents cancer, but helps stop tumor growth.

“The idea is that … the Cimavax vaccine induces an immune response (to stop EGF production),” Lee told ABC News. “The tumor is being starved.”

If the vaccine continues to prove effective with limited side effects, it could be a big step forward in the fight against forms of cancer that use EGF to grow quickly – notably breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and head and neck cancers.

Candace Johnson, CEO of Roswell Park, told Wired the advancement of Cimavax and U.S.-Cuba relations is exciting.

“The chance to evaluate a vaccine like this is a very exciting prospect,” Johnson told Wired. “(Cuba has) had to do more with less, so they’ve had to be even more innovative with how they approach things. For over 40 years, they have had a preeminent immunology community.”

Lee said he anticipates an initial FDA study on the vaccine to be launched in the next six to eight months.

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