Cuban vaccine may pack punch in fight against lung cancer

U.S. researchers say a Cuban lung cancer vaccine shows promise in preventing the recurrence of lung cancer — the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

BUFFALO, N.Y. —

The first patients in a clinical trial at Roswell Park Cancer Institute have begun receiving monthly doses of CIMAvax-EGF, a Cuban lung-cancer vaccine that U.S. researchers say shows promise in preventing the recurrence of lung cancer — the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

The Roswell trial, authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last fall, is the first time a Cuban-made therapy has been tested on U.S. patients.

CIMAvax has already undergone extensive clinical trials in Cuba and around the world and is an approved therapy for treatment of lung cancer not only on the island but also in Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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The unique partnership between Roswell Park researchers and Havana’s Center of Molecular Immunology began in 2011, well before the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Cuba, and had its genesis in a cold call from Gisela Gonzalez, a Cuban researcher who was visiting her family in Pittsburgh.

She offered to give a talk about the Havana center’s work to researchers at Roswell, an internationally recognized cancer treatment and research center. “It really came out of the blue, and we, like many others, thought Cuba was stuck back in the ‘I Love Lucy’ days and their technology was probably on par with their 1950s cars,” recalled Dr. Kelvin Lee, chairman of Roswell’s Department of Immunology.

Gonzalez invited Roswell researchers to an international immunology convention in Havana. Lee said he came away impressed. “We saw this remarkable amount of innovative scientists and remarkable research they were doing,” he said.

When he returned to Roswell, Lee said he told the institute’s senior…

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