Cuban scientists' success in the creation of a therapeutic vaccine called CimaVax-EGF, the world's first vaccine for lung cancer treatment, has broadened hopes of achieving healing, survival and social integration for patients suffering from malignant tumors.
Scientists estimate the number of new cases with these diseases will increase worldwide in the next 20 years, mainly due to the aging process, environmental pollutants, a high number of smokers, as well as, both passive and unhealthy lifestyles. However, many experts say that in the not too distant future, the diagnosis and treatment of more than 200 disease types included under the term cancer will experience a revolution through a variety of advances noted below.
Advances in genomics and the understanding of the molecular alterations causing each type of neoplasia (abnormal proliferation of cells) have paved the way for the development of new drugs intended to improve the quality of life and survival rate for patients.
In fact, the therapeutic vaccine CimaVax-EGF, the first of its kind in the world for the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), was developed by researchers and scientists at the Center of Molecular Immunology (CIM) in Havana.
Interviewed by Cubaplus, Dr. Zoraida Acosta Brook, a clinical researcher helping to develop the body of scientific research to support this vaccine, stated that to date, benefits include a greater survival rate of up to 48 months and an improved quality of life for patients in the advanced disease stages.
Dr. Acosta, who participated in Phase II and III trials for Cuban patients with advanced lung cancer, indicated that “we are very excited about the different investigations, as well as the results obtained, where there is evidence that the Cuban therapeutic vaccine CimaVax-EGF appears to be a good option for people with this type of cancer”.
She further explained that based on the observations found in the different studies performed, in the upcoming months this vaccine will be used to treat a wider range of cancer patients. It will not only be applied to people with this type of cancer, but also to patients in primary care who have received surgery in the early stages of the disease, and also to those not demonstrating a positive response to cancer therapy.
According to Dr. Acosta, the achievements of the CimaVax-EGF vaccine suggest a need for a change in the approach taken with cancer patients and perhaps considerations made to alter the medical model somewhat so as to consider cancer as a chronic, incurable, but possibly controllable disease. There are many other existing chronic conditions that have no cure, but can be controlled; these include diabetes, hypertension and others. “New therapies based on biotechnology products like monoclonal antibodies and vaccines can cause advanced cancer to become a chronic, but controlled disease.” informed Dr. Acosta.
Dr. Acosta also stressed the need for increased prevention and education, since it is possible to reduce risk factors and the prevalence of neoplasias which is the first cause of death in many countries.
The promising results in the implementation of the Cuban vaccine have convinced Dr. Erik D'Hondt, Chief Scientific Officer of the UK based Bioven pharmaceutical group, to launch a new clinical trial using the vaccine in a group of patients in the UK. During a recent visit to Havana, D'Hondt said that the Bioven group promotes research with the product in other European nations, besides Australia, Thailand and Malaysia.
CimaVax-EGF is the result of more than 15 years of research by specialists of CIM. The therapeutic vaccine causes an immune response and has no severe side effects. It produces fewer adverse reactions than standard therapies because it only targets malignant cells. It is composed of two proteins, the epidermal growth factor protein and the P-64 K of the membrane, both obtained via recombinant technology.
“To date, it is the only vaccine of its kind in the world and is registered in Cuba and Peru. It has been used in the latter for over a year now with positive results in increasing life expectancy and quality of life for lung cancer patients.” commented Luis Alberto Sánchez Villar, General Manager of the Peruvian company, Quality Pharma. Sánchez Villar added that in Peru, several investigations have been carried out which have verified the results of the clinical trials performed in Cuba. “They show an important survival rate.” he said.
With the Cuban medical and scientific community having had an integral role in spearheading the development of this important breakthrough in cancer treatment, patients can avail themselves of this treatment option to achieve improved quality of life and a new life promise.