In addition to its penchant for Communism, Cuba is primarily known for its cigars and passion for beisbol. But it looks like they may be adding lung cancer pioneerism to that list.
Fellow Communists at the Chinese news outlet Xinhua reported that Cuban medical authorities have released the first therapeutic vaccine for lung cancer. To be sure, this isn’t a cure. However, the vaccine could make an enormous difference for those facing late-stage lung cancers, researchers say.
CimaVax-EGF is said to turn aggressive later-stage lung cancer into a manageable chronic disease by creating antibodies that do battle with the proteins that cause uncontrolled cell proliferation.
“It is not possible to prevent the disease but this vaccine improves significantly the status of the critically ill patients,” said Gisela Gonzalez, head researcher of the project.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are still recommended as a primary means of destroying cancerous tissue, but for those showing no improvement the new vaccine could be a literal lifesaver.
The vaccine has already been tested in 1,000 patients in Cuba and is being distributed at hospitals there free of charge. That’s a big deal for a country where smoking is part of the national culture and a leading cause of death. If it proves as successful as researchers say it is, it should give those suffering from lung cancer reason to celebrate–just not with a Cohiba.
The vaccine has been in the works for nearly 25 years as a research project at Havana’s Center for Molecular Immunology. Lung cancer is most frequently found among tobacco smokers, which in Cuba is seen as a status symbol. According to the World Health Organization, the disease kills about five million people a year worldwide, and the figure is expected to rise to as much as eight million by 2030 unless smoking habits are changed.
Lung cancer kills about 20,000 people a year in Cuba, and according to Xinhua, is considered a serious threat to public health and the leading cause of death in 12 of the country’s 15 provinces.