3 Innovations of the Cuban Lung Cancer Vaccine
Roswell Park is opening a clinical trial to study the CIMAvax-EGF® vaccine, a cancer treatment that was developed in Cuba. This vaccine, a type of immunotherapy that harnesses the body’s immune system, will be used to treat patients with lung cancer, the most common cause of cancer death worldwide. In the United States, more people die every year of lung cancer than the other major cancers – breast, prostate, and colon – combined. We need better options for patients and this vaccine trial is innovative in three significant ways.
1. A first import from Cuba. This clinical trial at Roswell Park represents the first time that this therapy or any drug or anticancer agent from Cuba will be tested and studied in the United States. The trials conducted in Cuba show that the vaccine is effective at slowing the growth of advanced non-small cell lung cancer.
2. How it works. Cancer treatment vaccines in the United States, including those we have developed here at Roswell Park, are generated from the patient’s own tumor, a highly personalized approach that utilizes cutting edge technologies. In contrast, CIMAvax triggers the immune system by inserting a naturally occurring protein that feeds tumor cells (called EGF) into an inactivated common bacteria. The immune system kicks in to wipe out the bacteria – along with the protein – and this in turn starves the tumor of an important growth factor.
3. Low cost, low toxicity means more people can benefit. Lung cancer is common throughout the world with almost 2 million cases diagnosed every year. Even in the U.S., where we’ve made huge strides recently in treating lung cancer, it carries a mortality rate of about 80-85% over five years. Outside of developed countries, mortality is closer to 100%. We really cannot impact those cancers with anything other than a drug that is affordable, tolerable, and easy to administer. CIMAvax seems to meet that challenge.
Roswell Park is launching the first clinical trial in the U.S. to study the CIMAvax-EGF ® vaccine, a lung cancer treatment. The study is not yet open.
The impact that CIMAvax will have on the burden of cancer remains to be seen, but the potential is huge. Lung cancer mortality is stubbornly high because even after curative treatment, the cancer frequently recurs or a second lung cancer arises because the whole lung is damaged (from smoking, pollution or other exposures) which caused the first tumor. CIMAvax offers the potential to reverse or control this lung damage, preventing recurrence or keeping secondary tumors in check. We think we can use CIMAvax to begin to turn lung cancer into a chronic, survivable disease. It may not eliminate the tumor, but it may keep it from growing so that you can continue to live with good quality of life, as we are seeing with other cancer types.