Cuba Shares Lung Cancer Vaccine with U.S.

Chest radiograph showing a Pancoast tumorT

This past Wednesday it was reported on Dailykos and several progressive sites that Cuba has agreed to share a promising vaccine used to stop the growth of lung cancers with the U.S. for clinical trials.

Maybe you didn’t see it in the main stream media. Yawn.

“Cuba has for several years had a promising therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer. The 55-year trade embargo led by the US made sure that Cuba was mostly where it stayed. Until—maybe—now.”

“The Obama administration has, of course, been trying to normalize relations with the island nation. And last month, during New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s visit to Havana, Roswell Park Cancer Institute finalized an agreement with Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology to develop a lung cancer vaccine and begin clinical trials in the US. Essentially, US researchers will bring the Cuban vaccine stateside and get on track for approval by the Food and Drug Administration.”

“Cimavax (the Cuban vaccine) 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.)

Cimavax could potentially slow or stop growth in other types of cancers as well. Now that it will have proper funding and clinical trials, this could be a very promising development in the fight against cancer.”

And here we thought that Cuba only had ‘53 Chevies running around.

The poorer countries of the world continue to struggle with an enormous health burden from diseases that we have long had the capacity to eliminate. Similarly, the health systems of some countries, rich and poor alike, are fragmented and inefficient, leaving many population groups under served and often without health care access entirely.

Yeah. Like here.

Cuba represents an important alternative example where modest infrastructure investments combined with a well-developed public health strategy have generated health status measures comparable with those of industrialized countries. Areas of success include control of infectious diseases, reduction in infant mortality, establishment of a research and biotechnology industry, and progress in control of chronic diseases, among others. If the Cuban experience were generalized to other poor and middle-income countries human health would be transformed.

We of course would not admit that those commie bastards could do anything good over the past 50 years. The major public health advances in Cuba, and the underlying strategy that has guided its health gains, have been systematically ignored. Biomedical literature in English has been almost entirely silent on the Cuban experience and US government policy temporarily forbade publication of articles from Cuba by US medical journals or their foreign subsidiaries.

The historical context that explains the absence of Cuba from the global conversation on public health and medicine is self-evident.

“The unwillingness to take account of the Cuban experience, or to even view it as an alternative route through which some societies can move toward the universal goal of health promotion, represents an important oversight. The achievements in Cuba thereby pose a challenge to the authority of the biomedical community in countries that define the scientific agenda. This assertion by no means rests exclusively on Cuba’s success in climbing the vital statistics charts. In virtually every critical area of public health and medicine facing poor countries Cuba has achieved undeniable success; these include most prominently—creating a high quality primary care network and an unequaled public health system, educating a skilled work force, sustaining a local biomedical research infrastructure, controlling infectious diseases, achieving a decline in non-communicable diseases, and meeting the emergency health needs of less developed countries.”

Cuba has the per capital income of a Bolivia – and the health standards of the first world.

Now wouldn’t it be lovely if Cuba gave the world the drug that halts lung cancer?


(I wonder how much our drug companies will charge for it?)



About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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2 Responses to Cuba Shares Lung Cancer Vaccine with U.S.

  1. beetleypete says:

    Your last line is the crunch Frank. Any advances in medicine secured from deals with poorer countries will undoubtedly be marketed at a huge premium in the US and Europe.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  2. I’m trying to visualize exactly how this vaccine would be used, as most lung cancer is caused by smoking or particulate pollutions. It seems more logical to try to prevent lung cancer by offering free, reliable treatment for nicotine addiction (there are two really effective pharmaceutical treatments used here in New Zealand) and reducing particulate air pollution.


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