Cuban Lung Cancer Vaccine Offered in Local Hospitals

By Fernando Ravsberg*

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Part of the Cuban Center for Molecular Immunology. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

HAVANA TIMES – “The vaccine against lung cancer is unique in the world and is very new,” Arlhee Díaz, pharmacist and marketer for the research center, explains to the public.

“It acts on a molecule that appears in excessive quantities in the tumors and that activates an anomalous level of cellular growth, causing the tumor itself to grow. The vaccine inhibits the tumor’s progression.” He adds: “It’s a therapeutic vaccine that has shown very good results in advanced stages of lung cancer.”

“The vaccine offers the patients greater life expectancy; it doesn’t eliminate the tumors, but it slows their growth, allowing patients to live longer and to enjoy a better quality of life because it has minimal toxicity,” the scientist assures. Tumors greatly affect the quality of life of those who are sick, and conventional treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy have very elevated toxicity, eroding the patient’s general state of health.

La vacuna no elimina el tumor pero detiene su crecimiento, permitiendo que los pacientes puedan vivir más y con una buena calidad de vida porque su toxicidad es mínima. Foto: Raquel Pérez Díaz
The vaccine doesn’t eliminate the tumor but slows its growth, allowing patients to live longer and with a better quality of life because the toxicity is minimal.  Photo: Raquel Pérez Díaz.

Cubans can receive the vaccine without cost from their hospitals. Foreigners should contact Servimed (Cuban International Health Services), but they also need to be admitted into the Cuban health system so that it can be applied by our doctors.  For these patients, the application of the vaccine does have a cost.

The Cuban Center for Molecular Immunology (initials CIM in Spanish) centers its work on research towards the creation and production of medications against cancer, the principal cause of death among Cubans. It began producing monoclonal antibodies in 1994, in the middle of the worst economic crisis in Cuban history. Currently, CIM exports to more than 30 countries, bringing in some US $80 million a year as well as supplying the national market.

The vaccine has been registered in Peru and Paraguay in addition to Cuba. At this moment clinical trials are being held in Europe, but these are studies that take time – 3 or 4 years – and are extremely expensive. This is a barrier, because Cuba has a good supply of scientists but lacks the financial resources required to enter many markets. For that reason, associations with foreign investors are vital.

The Cuban Center for Molecular Immunology centers its work on research towards the creation and production of anti-cancer medications.  Photo: Raquel Pérez Díaz
The Cuban Center for Molecular Immunology centers its work on research towards the creation and production of anti-cancer medications. Photo: Raquel Pérez Díaz

Despite the optimism of some press media, the moment is still far off when this vaccine could be marketed in the United States. Arlhee Díaz explains: “To date, the only thing we’ve done is to sign a confidentiality agreement with a research center from the United States to begin to exchange information. With this as a starting point, in the future we could begin phase one trials, efficacy trials, etc. This would still be only a clinical investigation, far short of the marketing phase. Many journalists have been mistaken on this point.”

Einar Blanco, the general marketing manager for CIM’s commercialization enterprise, assures that the new foreign investment law, recently approved by the Cuban government, authorizes the Molecular Immunology Center to sign contracts with foreign partners for research, production and commercialization of their products. This includes the possibility of utilizing the Mariel free trade zone, where the investor’s profits would be much greater.
(*) Visit the website of Fernando Ravsberg.

4 thoughts on “Cuban Lung Cancer Vaccine Offered in Local Hospitals

  • The US embargo does not prevent the purchase of medicine or food from the US. Even if it did, the Castros can buy medicine from anyone else they want. The embargo has nothing to do with the lack of medicines in Cuba. The Castros do sell drugs. Google Labiofam. My grandfather-in-law is far from “addle-pated” unless of course if that means a handsome, sharp-minded retired lawyer in his 80s who can casino dance you in circles.

  • 1) The U.S. embargo is to blame.
    The effectiveness of it it creating massive poverty, as intended results in shortages of everything AS INTENDED ..
    2) The “Castros” do not sell pharmaceuticals
    Pssst! Hey senor, you want some ampicillin ?
    3) Your grandfather must be addle-pated to not recognize the brilliance of your belief set and raft over to the Keys .

  • I wish your ex the best. Her story is sadly more common than the Castros want to admit. My wife’s grandfather suffers from high blood sugar and because his granddaughter lives in the imperial north, he is able to receive a monthly supply of a fairly common blood pressure medication in a monthly care package. This medicine is available in the National Hotel and Hotel Riviera pharmacy lest Castro bootlickers shriek the tired old excuse that the US embargo is to blame. There is a cheap generic of this medication available in Mexico who would sell it Cuba if they asked for it. Did I mention that the Castros sell a month’s supply of this medicine for about 5 times grandpa’s retirement? Without his medicine, gramps would maybe survive 6 months. Despite the irony of it, my wife’s 80 – something grandfather continues to extoll the Castro dictatorship’s health care system.

  • I wish the patients who elect to use this drug the best of luck. They will certainly need it.

    My ex-novia, who I am still close to, was diagnosed with vaginal cancer last year after 2 months of being told she had an infection that could be cured by antibiotics. Her diagnosis was a simply visual exam made by her old gyn/ob doctor made in his bedroom. She waited a month for radiation therapy as the machine was broken. After that she waited another month for chemotherapy as the drugs were unavailable. Then she was sent from Holguin to Havana for brachatherapy where she waited 5 weeks for an opening in the schedule. Then they realized her tumor had grown because of the delay in treatment instead of shrunk. So she is scheduled for more chemotherapy with stronger drugs.

    Today (19 July ’15) she is in a Havana hospital waiting for her hemoglobin level to rise so she can start the new chemotherapy. The common drugs used to increase the red blood cell count are not available. Lance Armstrong had no problems finding them but the Cuban medical system cannot. She was advised to eat more beef or horse meat. Oh, her pain medication is not available in the peoples pharmacy but readily available in the international pharmacy if you have the CUC. (she does, thanks to me)

    So my heart goes out to any Cuban wanting this new drug. I suspect that if any is actually available, it will be sold to a tourist for cash instead of treating a Cuban.

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