We're About to Get Cuba's Lung Cancer Vaccine

Clinical trials of Cimavax could start this year
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2015 5:18 AM CDT
Updated May 12, 2015 6:44 AM CDT
Cuban Lung Cancer Vaccine Coming to US
Could Cimavax explain why Fidel Castro is still alive?   (AP Photo/RHS)

(Newser) – Closer American ties with one of the world's major cigar exporters could actually be good news in the fight against lung cancer. Cuba has developed Cimavax, an effective lung cancer vaccine, and American researchers can now finally get their hands on it, reports Wired. After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Cuba for a trade mission last month, the Buffalo-based Roswell Park Cancer Institute struck a deal with Havana's Center of Molecular Immunology to develop a vaccine, allowing clinical trials involving Cimavax to begin in the US, Bloomberg reports. Cimavax, which stops tumors from growing, was 25 years in the making and has been available for free to Cuban patients since 2011, Wired reports.

So how did such a small and poor country create a world-leading therapeutic vaccine? Roswell Park CEO Candace Johnson, who hopes to start clinical trials in the US within a year, tells Wired that the country's biotech industry has thrived despite—and perhaps even because of—the US embargo. "They've had to do more with less, so they've had to be even more innovative with how they approach things," she says. "For over 40 years, they have had a preeminent immunology community." Experts say they're excited not just by the potential of Cimavax, but by other novel Cuban cancer treatments that could now be available to US researchers. (The US has approved the first ferry service to Cuba in 50 years.)

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