Cuba’s Cancer Vaccine Will Finally Be Available in the U.S. Soon
Good news! You can throw out that unregulated vape pen (does anyone really know what’s in that stuff?!) and stock up on cigarettes because the United States and Cuba are going to be sharing medical information that might soon lead to a U.S.-approved vaccine for lung cancer.
When Americans think of Cuba, one of the first things that comes to mind is probably cigars. But a lot of Americans might not be aware of Cuba’s world renowned revolutionary health care system and medical developments. As of 2007, the tiny island had 28,000 doctors working in 68 different countries: exporting medicine, vaccines, and treatment to people who need it most in countries like Honduras and Syria. More recently, Cuba took an aggressive approach to preventing the spread of the Zika virus by doing door-to-door symptom checks, expanded screenings, and frequent prenatal care.
Now the United States will be able to reap some of the medical benefits Cuba has worked so hard to develop. In October, U.S. and Cuban officials signed a memorandum of understanding to share medical research and knowledge that could lead to the development of a marketable cancer vaccine. “We want to determine what the best tools are, improve knowledge of standard treatments and generate a response that will allow us to work on improving the service we provide to our people,” said the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell.
The vaccine is called CIMAvax (not to be confused with Cinemax) and it’s already been developed by researchers at Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology. But this new agreement will allow clinical trials to begin in the United States soon. It all began in the 1980’s when Cuban researchers developed a radical vaccine for meningitis. They found that by injecting epidermal growth factor, or EGF, they could kick the immune system into overdrive and force it to target meningitis cells. So it doesn’t prevent the disease but successfully treats it. Since it still focuses on the immune system, it’s still considered a vaccine. From there, they decided to work on a vaccine for lung cancer. Why lung cancer? This might come as a surprise but Cubans like to smoke. So despite having a higher life expectancy than the average U.S. citizen, lung cancer rates are high.
CIMAvax is just one small part of all the benefits the United States could gain by collaborating with Cuba in the medical field. Cuba has a wide range of effective pharmaceuticals and vaccines including diabetes treatments. But this doesn’t mean everyone in the United States will have access to these radical life-changing drugs. Cuba’s health care system is socialized which means it’s completely publicly funded and available to everyone. The United States on the other hand has mostly privatized all health care and pharmaceuticals so that companies can make a profit. So if you want access to these new developments, you better either volunteer for clinical trials or start saving your money.