Promising Lung Cancer Vaccine From Cuba At Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Illustration of mesothelioma research

Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York is working with a promising lung cancer vaccine from Cuba and getting closer to being the first cancer center to offer a clinical trial for a lung cancer vaccine.

Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology originally created the vaccine, called CimaVax vaccine, with the full intention to share it with the U.S. through a partnership with Governor Andrew Cuomo established at a state foreign trade commission in April 2015. The easing of the 54-year-old Cuba embargo allowed for this exchange.

“The way they approach things and their scientific innovation is really off the charts. They’re wonderful people. We’ve really enjoyed our collaboration,” said Dr. Candace Johnson, CEO and President of Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

CimaVax has been tested for over 20 years in Cuba, helping 1,000 individuals. It has been used in the Caribbean nation for about five years.

The vaccine is about to be submitted for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and shows promise for people with other lung afflictions such as mesothelioma cancer. CimaVax takes a different treatment approach by slowing tumor cell growth rather than killing them.

According to Dr. Johnson, “Lung cancer cells are addicted to the epidermal growth factor. In other words, they can’t grow unless the growth factor is present. What CimaVax does is it immunizes you against this growth factor. You build up antibodies against it.”

Roswell plans to submit an application for a clinical trial using CimaVax for FDA approval by spring. The trial would begin at the end of 2016 for patients with stage 3 and 4 lung cancer. Patients will receive the vaccine monthly by shots.

Following phase 1 and 2, research will be done on the vaccine’s effects on patients specifically with early stage lung cancer.

Roswell is also working on improving the process for administering photodynamic therapy (PDT), a treatment for head and neck cancers and a treatment option for mesothelioma cancer. In February, they received $7 million in research grants, including a five-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, to further their efforts.

Most of the funding will go towards “determining the ideal laser settings for using interstitial photodynamic therapy to treat patients with head and neck cancers that have begun to spread to other tissues,” said the hospital. The Director of PDT, Gal Shafirstein will lead the project.

If you or someone you know has interest in being a part of the Roswell CimaVax study, you can find more information here.