Lung cancer vaccine CimaVax could be first of many medical advances made possible by U.S.-Cuba thaw

New access to a Cuban-developed lung cancer inhibitor could enable researchers in the U.S. to prevent the lethal killer in years to come, Dr. Samadi says.

Cuba has a promising new lung cancer vaccine called CimaVax that may soon be coming to the United States. More than 50% of patients die within a year of being diagnosed, making lung cancer the number one cancer killer in the United States. It kills more people than colon, prostate and breast cancer combined, it’s very difficult to identify early and — being that it’s most often discovered at an advanced stage, very difficult to treat.

Lung cancer mainly occurs in older people. About two of every three people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older; fewer than 2% of all cases are found in people younger than 45. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 70.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute, a research group based in Buffalo, recently made a deal with a Cuban biotechnology institute to bring the lung cancer vaccine to the United States. They want to conduct clinical trials in hopes of one day having a successful lung cancer vaccine available in the United States.

CimaVax was developed in Cuba nearly a quarter century ago. It is now available to the public, and provided at no cost to patients.

Thanks to President Obama, who recently loosened the embargo on trade with Cuba that has been in effect for the past 55 years, CimaVax may soon be a possibility for the American people, too. This could also be the first of many future collaborations in medical research between the U.S. and Cuba and, if so, could promise great benefits to researchers, health care providers and patients in both countries.

It is important for people to know how CimaVax works. It is not a cure for lung cancer.

What it does is, it helps the immune system by producing antibodies that work against a protein that causes the growth of cancer cells. It works by stopping the growth of the tumor. Clinical trials conducted in Cuba have shown that the vaccine can prolong a lung cancer patient’s life by four to six months. CimaVax is also inexpensive to develop and is much less harmful on the body than chemotherapy.

Now, four to six months may not seem like a long time, but it is exciting because lung cancer has an extremely poor prognosis. It is often diagnosed at a late stage, and is one of the most difficult cancers to treat.

CimaVax also comes with fewer side effects, and researchers say it’s less toxic than chemotherapy treatment. The side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, mouth sores, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, heightened chance of infections and easy bruising, bleeding and fatigue.

The side effects of CimaVax are mild and include chills, fever and nausea. CimaVax also improves patients’ quality of life by reducing symptoms such as coughing and breathlessness.


People who have been diagnosed with lung cancer and have only months to live, with chemotherapy, may consider CimaVax to be a miracle drug that affords a lengthier prognosis and less-severe side effects.

The researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute believe CimaVax may be able to prevent lung cancer in the years to come. Their goal is to get approval to start clinical trials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration within a year. Japan and several countries in Europe have already begun clinical trials with CimaVax.

By Dr. David A. Samadi, NY Daily News

July 28, 2015

Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery, and an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for am970 in New York City, where he is heard Sundays at 10 a.m.


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