Since Fidel Castro took over Cube in 1959, the country has been known for its medical diplomacy, sending doctors and medicine to far flung parts of the globe in order to foster goodwill and gain allies on the world stage.
Unfortunately the long-standing embargo against Cuba kept the United States off the island’s medical diplomatic list.
This is rapidly changing after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and a number of business leaders from the states travelled to Cuba earlier this month on a trade mission.
During the trip, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute of Buffalo signed an agreement to import a revolutionary Cuban lung cancer vaccine called CimaVax which helps treat symptoms and recurrence of the disease.
The vaccine is both cheap and effective in addition to not having any toxicity. It will treat people with lung cancer and could also potentially prevent cancer in people who don’t already have it.
The drug was developed by the Cuban government-run Molecular Immunology Center in the 1990s. Despite being widely reported by a variety of medical and media organizations around the world, Havana has kept its success a closely guarded secret.
Under President Barak Obama’s administration a number of U.S. – Cuban relation policies have been rewritten. For example, law December President Obama announced that the Cold War foes would restart diplomatic relations, which have allowed for this joint research to occur.
Although the vaccine is a long way from hitting the American market, doctors are hopeful to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical trials within eight months.
Once the drug is approved for clinical trials, medical researchers in both the U.S. and Cuba are interested in seeing if the vaccine can be used to treat other forms of cancer beside lung cancer.
For medical researchers at Roswell Park, the biggest challenge will be convincing U.S. authorities to allow this product to be tested in the country.
The drug is currently on the Cuban market, where it has treated around 1,000 people for lung cancer and has been used on a total of 5,000 patients around the globe.