Cuba had made the first lung cancer vaccine 4 years ago. Now, researchers from the US will collaborate with those of Cuba to develop the vaccine, making it accessible to other countries.
The Cuba and the US are to work in collaboration to develop a lung cancer vaccine after the decision to lift the embargo that used to limit trade with Cuba was made. Cuba had its first vaccine for lung cancer – also the first in the world – back in 2011. The vaccine known as Cimavax would cost $1 per shot, but it has recently been made free for the public by the government of the country. Now, other countries will soon have access to it.
Following the news of the collaboration, the Center of Molecular Immunology of Cuba and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute from the USA will work hand in hand to create the vaccine.
Lifting the embargo is regarded as a critical step for medical collaboration between the two countries.
“The chance to evaluate a vaccine like this is a very exciting prospect,” says Candace Johnson, CEO of Roswell Park.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will need to give its approval for the vaccine before clinical trials are started.
The benefits of Cimavax
Cimavax is considerably cheap to manufacture and store. Furthermore, it has shown little toxicity so far. Otherwise, patients who have been administered with cancer vaccines are often reported to have side effects. Those that resulted from the vaccine are nausea, chills and fever.
It is to be noted that Cimavax is not a cure. Moreover, more testing needs to be done to understand the mechanism involved. So far, the results have been favourable.
How does the vaccine work?
The vaccine consists of a protein known as epidermal growth factor (EGF) which is known to promoting the growth of cells, and found naturally in the body. However, it is produced in excess because of cancerous tissues. Consequently, the cancerous growths multiply uncontrollably.
The EGF introduced into the body during vaccination travels in the blood and stimulates the immune system to synthesise antibodies to inhibit the effects of the EGF. As a result, the tumours are prevented from getting bigger and bigger.
Cimavax is given to patients of lung cancer. It curbs the progression of the tumour, preventing it from propagating in other regions of the body.
Prospects for other cancers
Researchers are of the opinion that the vaccine in question can be used for other cancers as well because EGF signalling also triggers tumour development for prostate, breast, colon and pancreatic cancer.
“All those things are potential targets for this vaccine,” says Kelvin Lee, an immunologist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.