Two days of fruitful debate in the 5th CIMAvax-EGF International Workshop on the first registered therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer, confirmed that after two decades of clinical experience in the use of this vaccine, the treatment has been proven safe and effective given the positive reaction of patients, the increase in survival rates and improved quality of life.
An excellent prognosis in a context where lung cancer, according to the Annual Health Statistics report 2014, is among the top causes of death for both men and women in the country, and is one of the illnesses showing the greatest increase in both genders.
The Workshop, organized by CIMAB S.A - biopharmaceutical entity dedicated to the development and commercialization of cancer medicines, affiliated with the Molecular Immunology Center (CIM) - was the ideal place to present the final results of the study confirming the effectiveness of CIMAvax-EGF in treating advanced pulmonary cancer; the use of the vaccine in treating lung cancer at a primary healthcare level; its global safety accreditation; biomarkers to predict patients’ response to the vaccine; post-registration experiences in other countries; CIMAvax-EGF in the context of therapies directed toward patients with lung cancer; and its use in treating prostate cancer.
According to information presented during the event, more than 3,000 patients, the majority Cubans, have benefited from the vaccine. Dr. Giselle Suárez, expert at CIM’s commercial office, reported to the press that since 2015, the vaccine has been included in the country’s basic catalogue of essential medicines, and is available across all levels of the national health system.
Speaking with the press, Dr. Eva Salamón, head of the Provincial Oncology Group, noted that the treatment is being successfully applied in 18 primary health care polyclinics in Havana, with more than 300 patients benefiting from the vaccine in the capital.
This novel therapeutic technique – able to generate antibodies in the patient to combat their own EGF (epidermal growth factor), the principle cell-activator of the epidermal growth factor receptor EGFr, thus impeding the process of carcinogenesis (when a normal cell mutates in to a cancer cell) – is registered in Cuba, Peru and Paraguay.
Mathematics graduate, Pa¬tricia Luaces, statistics analyst of the clinical information management group of CIM’s clinical direction, emphasized to Granma the importance of personalized medicine: “In general the immunotherapies have effects which are different from those we are accustomed to when analyzing chemotherapy and traditional cancer treatments. Not all work the same in patients, the reaction depends on the characteristics of the treatments, thus they need to be analyzed with the use of innovative statistical techniques in order to process the results.
“Today, we are looking for biomarkers in patients which identify - on the basis of data and the characteristics of their immune systems in general - the sub-groups demonstrating the best response to the therapies,” stated Luaces.
“There are no sicknesses, but rather sick people, and the idea is to focus on treatment. The results are very preliminary and the most solid evidence we have today is related to the base concentration of the EGF, as a good indicator to select patients who will respond well to the therapy,” she concluded.