Cuba, famed maker of delicious (and cancery) cigars, may just have an anti-lung cancer vaccine that's worth getting excited about. CimaVax-EGF isn't preventative, but it may make this horrible deadly disease just a plain old horrible disease.
The newly available CimaVax-EGF is the product of 25 years of cancer research by Cuban medical authorities. While it cannot prevent cancer or remove cancer, it can do much to limit its effects on your body. In short, it should make cancer a manageable chronic disease. You probably won't feel great, but it may keep cancer from killing you. It can be used on stage 3 and 4 cancer patients whom have not been responding to other types of treatment.
Specific proteins are generated by the body when lung cancer is present that allow cells to proliferate uncontrollably. The vaccine generates anti-bodies which combat those specific proteins, thus limiting the damage that cancer can do. It has been used in over 1,000 clinical trials in Cuba and is currently available, for free, to all hospitals on the island.
While this is extremely significant, especially in the scope of lung cancer, therapeutic cancer vaccines (as opposed to preventative vaccines) are not particularly new. In the U.S., the National Cancer Institute is conducting clinical trials of vaccines for more than a dozen types of cancer, including breast, prostate, and lung cancers. In April, 2010 Provenge, a treatement for prostate cancer, became the first cancer vaccine to be approved by the FDA. Generally, these vaccines have fewer side-effects than more traditional methods of cancer treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy, and they can (and are, in the case of CimaVax-EGF) be used in tandem with those.
Research is still being done, but if this ends up being as successful as the researchers think it will be, it could dramatically redefine the implications of having this awful disease. The NCI estimates that 220,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2011, and more than 156,000 will die from it. It's unlikely that this treatment will be available in the U.S. anytime soon, so don't have a celebratory cigarette just yet. Or ever, really. Even if it doesn't kill you, a "manageable, chronic disease" sounds like no fun at all. [Xinhuanet via PopSci]
Side note: While this looks extremely encouraging, it should be mentioned that this research hasn't yet been evaluated by the NCI, which only looks at peer reviewed studies. These are new reports, though, so the lack of an NCI endorsement doesn't really mean anything.
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