President Barack Obama became the first president to visit Cuba in almost 90 years when he and first lady Michelle Obama traveled to the island nation in March. But one of the most exciting things about the thawing of relations between Cuba and the U.S. is happening stateside right now: the possibility of clinical trials on a drug to prevent lung cancer, and possibly other cancers, too.
CimaVax, which is both a treatment and vaccine for lung cancer, has been researched in Cuba for 25 years and free to the Cuban public since 2011. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s trade mission to Cuba in April 2015 resulted in a signed agreement to bring CimaVax to the U.S., but as with all international drugs and treatments, U.S. researchers need to conduct clinical trials and replicate international scientists’ results before it becomes available to the American public.
“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,” said Dr. Kelvin Lee, Jacobs Family Chair in Immunology and co-leader of the Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Program at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, the research center that is evaluating CimaVax for U.S. use.
The hoped-for success of CimaVax availability in the U.S. is just one example of the possibilities that come with open trade between the two nations. When Obama loosened the United State’s 55-year trade embargo against Cuba in December, he allowed for such joint research deals to be finalized. Similar programs might have been impossible just a few years ago.