This past spring, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Empire State Development and Roswell Park Cancer Institute announced an agreement between Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Cuban Center for Molecular Immunology. According to Roswell Park CEO and president, Dr. Johnson, Cuba has developed a vaccine for slowing the growth of lung cancer. The vaccine, known as CIMAvax-EGF vaccine, was developed to help treat lung cancer in Cuba, where lung cancer is one of the leading causes of death. For someone in the early stages of the disease, for instance a patient with recent surgery to remove a nodule, the vaccine might make all the difference. Due to the new agreement, the vaccine, which is already in use in Cuba, will be the subject of an early phase clinical trial at Roswell Park.

Lung cancer patients face a very high risk of reoccurrence and the vaccine is aimed at slowing future nodule growth by targeting a specific hormone which encourages tumors to grow. The vaccine works by creating a protein in the body that primes the immune system to attack a hormone called epidermal growth factor (EGF). The growth factor is the drive behind recurring cancers. If this is taken away, as the vaccine aims to do, then the cancer will have a much more difficult time recurring.

Roswell Park already has several cancer vaccines in clinical trials in conjunction with their Center for Immunotherapy, including NYESO-1 for ovarian cancer and acute myeloid leukemia, HSP for melanoma and SurVaxM for glioma and multiple myeloma. The doctors and researchers at Roswell are hoping that the partnership with Cuba is another milestone in the new era of cancer vaccine research.

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