First Lung Cancer Vaccine “CimaVax” Rising the Excitement from Cuba to America


World’s first lung cancer vaccine, CimaVax has traveled all the way from Cuba to the USA. In Cuba, the vaccine had displayed impressive results in prolonging the survival of lung cancer patients with low toxicity. The story looks to be continuing in the USA.

The Story of the Cuban Lung Cancer Vaccine “CimaVax”

Cuba that is internationally famous for exporting world class cigars “Cohibas” has ironically developed the first lung cancer vaccine “CimaVax” to turn the advanced lung cancer into a manageable disease.

Cohibas (image credit: cigarsofcuba)

CimaVax-EGF vaccine is a lung cancer treatment that revamps the body’s immune system to fight against lung cancer.

Epidermal growth factor (EGF) is a normal protein found in one’s body to promote cell growth and development in the body. Developing an antibody response against one’s own protein is difficult.

CimaVax contains EGF and another compound which enters into the bloodstream of the patients to naturally stimulate the development of antibodies against it in the body. The antibodies bind and clear out EGF, preventing them from binding to the cancer cells for cancer cell development.

CimaVax EGF Vaccine

Finally, the CimaVax neutralizes the EGF and starves the cancer cells to death without developing any side effects.

The vaccine was launched in Cuba in 2011 at the cost of $1 per shot. Later the Cuban government made the vaccine free to the public.

CimaVax has already undergone extensive clinical trials in Cuba. It is approved for use in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Cuba, Paraguay, and Peru.

Usually, the cancer vaccines are very expensive and they come with many types of side effects in the body. CimaVax is relatively cheap to manufacture and store. It also does not produce much toxicity in the patients.

Nausea, chills, and fever are some common side effects shown by the vaccine.


Vaccination of the First Patient in the USA with CimaVax

Cuba tied with the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, USA to introduce CimaVax in the USA for lung cancer treatment.

Differing from the other preventive vaccines like measles vaccine which is given to healthy infants to protect against the disease, CimaVax is a therapeutic vaccine that is given to people who already have lung cancer.  The vaccine does not cure the disease but stops further growth and spreading of the cancer cells.

In October 2016, US FDA approved the clinical trial of CimaVax in the US. The first patient receiving the monthly doses of CimaVax is showing encouraging results in preventing the comeback of the lung cancer.

The initial clinical trial showed improvements in the survival of patients on CimaVax compared to those receiving dummy treatments. The side effects profile was also low.

Now it is being tested as a combination therapy along with the Bristol-Myers Squibb’s anti PD-1 cancer immunotherapy, Opdivo (nivolumab) to check its efficiency in combination. The trial for this combination therapy began in January.

The combination will be tested in patients previously treated for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). CimaVax targets the EGF, which is overexpressed in approximately 40 percent to 80 percent of NSCLCs. Overexpression of EGF is related to poor prognosis, lower survival, and resistance to therapy in cancer.

Till now the vaccine has been administered to more than 5000 patients worldwide.


Future Prospects of Cimavax

Apart from lung cancer, CimaVax can be used to treat any cancer that requires EGF for its growth and proliferation.

Therefore, Cimavax can benefit patients with colon cancer, head and neck cancer, breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

Featured image credit: Bigstockphoto (lung cancer vaccine CimaVax)

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