By Fernando Ravsberg*
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.
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.
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.