CIMAvax EGF is a therapeutic anticancer vaccine developed entirely in Cuba and licensed in Cuba for use in adult patients with stage IIIb/IV non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The vaccine is based on active immunotherapy by which an individual's immune response is manipulated to release its own effector antibodies (Abs) against the epidermal growth factor (EGF).
All You Need to Know About Cuba's Lung Cancer Vaccine CIMAVAX-EGF
A vaccine developed in Cuba that has the power to extend life in lung cancer sufferers is now making its way to the United States for further trials and research. Here's what you need to know about this important advance in both medicine and Cuban relations.
What Does the Lung Cancer Vaccine Actually Do?
The vaccine, known as CimaVax EGF, is for small cell lung cancer and it works by targeting a protein known as epidermal growth factor or EGF. That's the naturally occurring signal that tells cells in the body to grow and divide. Some cancers make the body produce large amounts of EGF, which then leads to cells dividing and growing uncontrollably. CimaVax introduces EGF into the body and then prompts the body to begin binding EGF, which in turn stops it from reaching the receptors on cancer cells. This effectively interrupts the signal that would have told the cancer cells to keep growing and dividing. For people who already have small cell lung cancer, there is evidence that it can slow the progress of the cancer which in turn could mean the difference between early stage localized cancer and a cancer that has spread.
What Stage is Research of the Lung Cancer Vaccine At?
Twenty-five years of research supports the vaccine, and a number of small trials with cancer patients have shown that vaccine has some modest but still significant results. A trial published in 2008, for instance, showed that among 80 people, some of whom were given chemotherapy and then the vaccine and some who were just given chemotherapy, those who had the vaccine tended to live about four to six months longer. Perhaps even more important, they reported a better over-all quality of life, with reductions in symptoms like coughing and breathlessness.
There were some side-effects but these were mostly very mild, from sweating to chills, and feeling sick, though interestingly the trial seemed to show that the vaccine offered the most benefit to people under the age of 60.
So confident is Cuba about this vaccine, that it's actually been available to cancer patients for free since 2011 and the vaccine has been used to treat some 5,000 patients across the world.
So that's where the research is now, but what about in the future?
It is hoped that the "groundbreaking" study at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., which comes about by way of a historic deal that was signed by Cuba's Center for Molecular Immunology, will investigate not just the benefits that have already been established, but will be able to draw on new resources and insights to see if researchers can boost the affects and make this vaccine even more of a promising tool in the fight against lung cancer.
In particular, the researchers say they are interested in two key things: if the vaccine can be used to prevent lung cancer returning in those who have had cancerous masses removed, and if it may offer a preventative effect for those who are at high risk of developing lung cancer, for instance people who have lung cancer in the family and those who have a history of smoking.
Why Haven't We Been Able to Access the Vaccine Until Now?
Put simply, this is down to the U.S.'s decades long economic blockade on Cuba and the resulting lack of civil relations between the two countries.
In case you are wondering, as a trade-off Cuba will receive new medical technologies to update their own systems and machinery, which in turn will help them pursue new medical innovations.
Does This Mean the Vaccine Will Soon Be Available to Everyone in the U.S.?
The vaccine is being researched alongside two other vaccines that were developed within the United States, however the CimaVax vaccine has a considerable head-start on those other vaccines in terms of research supporting its safety and effectiveness. There will need to be trials to confirm those aspects of the vaccine, but it is hoped that roll out for patients can happen relatively quickly. The researchers will need to first win approval from the FDA for a trial, but this seems like a formality rather than any kind of potential barrier.
Why is This Vaccine So Exciting?
Cuba, in terms of world economies at least, doesn't have a lot of resources and so when it comes to its medical advances it has had to be creative, and the CimaVax vaccine is an example of that. By essentially starving the tumor of the EGF it needs to grow, this vaccine is innovative in a way that other cancer vaccines have not been, and there is hope that U.S. scientists might be able to use a similar approach to essentially starve other cancers that rely on EGF to proliferate, including some kinds of breast cancer.
Cimavax works the same as any other vaccine—each dose delivers an innocuous fragment of what we want the immune system to target (virus, bacteria, and so on) along with chemicals that amp up the immune system. The vaccines we're most familiar with protect us against pathogens that can infect us, like the measles virus.
Cimavax, though, directs the immune system's defenses to target a protein that our own bodies produce called epidermal growth factor, which cancer cells attract and use to multiply. Blocking epidermal growth factor from reaching the cancerous cells won't kill the cancer, but could stop it from growing and spreading. (It's important to point out that Cimavax isn't a preventative treatment—you can't take a shot of it and continue smoking without fear of lung cancer.)
It's a unique approach that could compliment treatments developed elsewhere.
In the US and Europe, people with lung cancer already have treatment options with the same goal. Roswell Park researchers say they plan to explore the vaccine's potential as a preventative intervention—making it more like a traditional vaccine. Furthermore, 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. Mostly for financial reasons, Cubans didn't test Cimavax that way at all.
Given the Cubans' inventive use of limited resources, we could probably learn a thing or two from them. Please find below CIMAVAX EGF eligibility criteria in Spanish and model Cimavax treatment program composition and model cost.
CRITERIOS DE SELECCIÓN DE LOS PACIENTES PARA RECIBIR TRATAMIENTO CON VACUNA CIMAvax-EGF
- Paciente con diagnóstico de Cáncer Primario de Pulmón definido como de Células no pequeñas con confirmación cito y/o histológica en estadios IIIB o IV.
- Pacientes que hayan concluido la primera línea de tratamiento oncoespecífico (Quimio o Quimio/Radioterapia)
- Que haya sido evaluada la respuesta objetiva como Enfermedad estable, remisión completa o parcial, según los criterios RECIST establecidos, 4 semanas después de haber concluido el tratamiento primario y que no hayan transcurrido más de 8 semanas después de haber concluido este tratamiento.
- Que tenga más de 18 años.
- Que desde el punto de vista funcional no tenga criterios negativos: complementarios dentro de limites normales de cifras Hematológicas y Hemoquímicas.
- Expectativa de vida de al menos 3 meses
- Estado Clínico de la OMS 0 a 2.
- Que no sea portador de metástasis cerebrales.
- Las pacientes femeninas en edad fértil deben utilizar métodos contraceptivos adecuados y poseer una prueba de embarazo negativa.
- Pacientes que hayan firmado el consentimiento informado para recibir este tratamiento vacunal.
- El resumen médico debe estar realizado por el médico de asistencia del país en cuestión donde deberá consignarse la solicitud expresa del tratamiento vacunal.
- Debe ser portador de una carta de autorización de la Agencia Regulatoria del país de residencia para los trámites aduanales pertinentes de entrada del medicamento. (**)
- No debe estar recibiendo ningún otro tratamiento.
El paciente debe reunir todos estos criterios que deben consignarse en los documentos que evalúa la Comisión de Oncólogos.
(**) Este acápite es de estricto cumplimiento, debe ser discutido previamente en su país y solucionar los trámites migratorios.
MODEL THERAPY FOR THE CANCER OF LUNG WITH MONOCLONAL ANTIBODIES. (CIMAVAX EGF)
Hospitalization (4 nights)
Hospitalization in private room category I (Inc. Feeding and nursing attention)
Attention of the physician assistant to hospitalized patient. (It includes visit of the physician)
Initial evaluation and making of medical history
Consultations with specialist of Stomatology General
Consultations with Podiatry
Hematological and Hemochemical Researches
Quantitative Serology (VDRL)
Antibodies test against the VIH-1/2
Radiography of Thorax over a distance of TV.
Therapy with monoclonal antibodies and other medicines
Cyclophosphamide Chloride of Sodium
Vaccine CIMAVAX EGF (16 bulbs)
Medical report, conclusions and recommendations
Price: 8368 CUC
To get Cuban clinic's contact info to arrange treatment on your own please see Caribemedica
Notes: Accompanist's accommodation with feeding 40 CUC daily. There are excluded other medicines that are not contemplated in the program, disposable material, blood, derivatives or its substitutes.