Space & Innovation

America Wants Cuba's Lung Cancer Vaccine

How did a country with so few resources develop such an advanced cancer vaccine?

<p>Photo: Wiki Media Commons</p>

Cuba has had a therapeutic lung cancer vaccine called Cimavax for several years now, and with the Obama administration trying to patch things up between Cuba and the U.S., we would really like to get access to Cimavax now, reports Wired. Luckily, it looks like that could become a reality in the near future.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute in upstate New York just secured an agreement with Cuba's Center for Molecular Immunology to develop and test the Cimavax lung cancer vaccine in the U.S. Roswell Park says they're hopeful about this opportunity because the research on Cimavax thus far shows it to be low in toxicity and fairly cheap to produce.

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Unbeknownst to many, Cuba has an extensive biotech and medical research community. With little access to American technology and innovation over the past several decades, Cuba has had to do a lot of work with very little resources. But they've done it incredibly well. Cuba only spends a small fraction on healthcare per person but their life expectancy, at 79.07 years, is virtually the same as America's at 78.74 years.

The caveat is that while Cimavax is very innovative, it likely won't change cancer treatment all that much. According to Wired, "The vaccine doesn't attack tumors directly, instead going after a protein that tumors produce which then circulates in the blood. That action spurs a person's body to release antibodies against a hormone called epidermal growth factor, which typically spurs cell growth but can also, if unchecked, cause cancer."

However, many countries around the world are trying tirelessly to find ways of beating cancer, and Cuba has made immense progress. In order for collaborative research to increase between the U.S. and Cuba, Congress has to lift the Cuban embargo. When that happens, the hope is that Cuba can teach us how they were able to make such dramatic strides in medicine over the last 55 years.

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