Cost Of Lung Cancer Treatment In Cuba Is $1 — Coming Here Soon?

By Gloria Christie on May 15, 2015

If you have recently lost someone to lung cancer, after the pain, anguish, and cost of treatment, you have every reason to be mad. Cuba has given an effective lung cancer vaccine called CimaVax to its people since 2011 – for free! The vaccine costs the Cuban government $1.00. And that is no typo.Cost Of Lung Cancer Treatment. Rhoda Baer. York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) was in Havana last April on one of the first trade missions. He returned with information about CimaVax!

The U.S. will begin trials in late 2015 or early 2016. The vaccine has been under investigation in Cuba for 25 years. We could have been working in tandem with Cuba if the ludicrous 55-year-long trade embargo had been lifted.

Dr. Kelvin Lee, Jacobs Family Chair in Immunology and co-leader of the Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Program at Roswell Park, said:

“We’re still at the very early stages of assessing the promise of this vaccine, but the evidence so far from clinical trials in Cuba and Europe has been striking.”

How Did Cuba Get Cimavax?

So how did Cuba, an isolated small nation with limited resources, make such a medical breakthrough — a low-cost of lung cancer treatment? Why is the life-expectancy for Cubans’ higher than ours: Cuba 79.07 versus U.S. 78.8?

Candace Johnson, CEO of Roswell Park, says:

They’ve had to do more with less. So they’ve had to be even more innovative with how they approach things. For over 40 years, they have had a preeminent immunology community.”

And Cuba is well-known for its doctor to patient ratios, one of the best in the world. The Cuban government values the well-being of its population as seen by its primary and preventive healthcare excellence.

Cuba also invests in nutrition, public education and public housing with a high return in health.

How Does It Work?

CimaVax is a vaccine treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. It targets a protein in lung cancer tumors. Our bodies naturally makes this protein to signal our cells to grow and divide. But we don’t want cancerous tumors growing. CimaVax also stimulates our immune system to create antibiodies.

The technique the vaccine uses on lung tumors has also been affective in colon cancer and brain cancer.

Lee said:

“We think it may be an effective way to prevent cancer from developing or recurring, so that’s where a lot of our team’s excitement comes in. There’s good reason to believe that this vaccine may be effective in both treating and preventing several types of cancer, including not only lung but breast, colorectal, head-and-neck, prostate and ovarian cancers, so the potential positive impact of this approach could be enormous.”

What Tests Have Been Done?

2007 study of patients with stages IIIB and IV lung cancer, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, explains the initial results of two small studies. All of the 80 patients had chemotherapy, and after that was finished researchers gave 40 people CimaVax while 40 had none.

The results showed that people under 60 did better. Those who were younger lived over twice as many months as those without the treatment. The vaccine reduced their symptoms of coughing and breathlessness among others.

More promising yet, the treatments’ side effects were mild: fever, chills, and a sense of being sick.

Lee said:

“We hope to determine in the next few years whether giving CimaVax to patients who’ve had a lung cancer removed, or maybe even to people at high risk of developing lung or head-and-neck cancers because of a history of heavy smoking, may be beneficial and may spare those people from having a cancer diagnosis or recurrence.”

Cost Of Lung Cancer Treatment

What is the real cost of lung cancer treatment? It is more than $1.00 or the hundreds of thousands of dollars here. The more poignant costs are in suffering and grief. Cuba has already been researching this vaccine for 25 years. If our little Cuban neighbor can come up with a low-cost of cancer treatment, surely we can fast-track it.