Cuba Develops Breakthrough Cancer Drug

Cuba Develops Breakthrough Cancer Drug

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Cancer is a household word in our society. It would be rare to meet somebody that does not know of a person that has died of cancer, or even that has cancer currently. Celebrities’ battles with cancer are well publicized, and many of us have picked up on the common treatments for cancer and causes of cancer, without having any first hand experience with it. It has become somewhat of a holy grail of medicine, being the first to find a cure for cancer. In fact, scientists in Cuba have recently made a breakthrough in this area, patenting a new drug which not only helps fight lung cancer, but can also vaccinate against it.

The most common cause of lung cancer is long-term exposure to tobacco smoke. However, up to 20% of cases are caused by other environmental and genetic factors, including simple heredity, or exposure to asbestos, radon gas, air pollution, or second-hand cigarette smoke. Currently, with treatment, around 14% of people who develop lung cancer are still alive after five years, making lung cancer one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Around 1.3 million people die of lung cancer every year, and it is the most common form of cancer in men, and the second most common in women, after breast cancer. On of the best weapons in the fight against lung cancer is getting a regular cancer checkup.

Cuba has responded to these alarming statistics, with a scientific research institute patenting a drug which has helped lung cancer patients live up to a year longer in some cases. The drug is called CimaVax EGF, and it is actually classified as therapeutic vaccine, because it is composed of modified proteins that help the body build its own defenses against cancer cells. Vaccines that you have as a child, or when you travel overseas, work in the same way. You are injected with a dose of a killed bacteria or virus, or a modified protein from one of these, to help your body recognize the illness and develop antibodies to it, which will fight the infection if you encounter it in a live form (from somebody or thing that is infected with it).

Dr Gisela Gonzalez headed the team that researched and developed CimaVax EGF, which is said to be the first lung cancer vaccine in the world. She did recognize that other countries are working on similar vaccines, but they are in the development stage, while Cuba’s is ready to be used on lung cancer patients. It is tagged as a breakthrough in treating terminally ill patients, although not a miracle drug.

The conventional treatments for lung cancer, like heart cancer and many other forms of cancer, include radiotherapy and chemotherapy. These are often hard on a patient’s body, causing skin problems, loss of appetite, damage to surrounding tissues, and even secondary cancers. Anything that can be used to lower the number of chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments necessary can provide a better quality of life for lung cancer patients.

Testing has currently been approved by the US government, however, clinical studies may not begin for another two years. The tests in Cuba have revealed that patients live an average of 6 months longer when treated with the vaccine in combination with other therapies. This is a significant result in a disease where the average lifespan from diagnosis is only 20 months. It is the hope of researchers, as well as families the world over, that these new treatments can increase the number of lung cancer survivors, and improve the quality of life for terminal patients.


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