Cuba’s Top Three Innovations in Medical Research

Center-of-Molecular-ImmunologyCenter of Molecular Immunology (CIM).

Medical discoveries coming out of Cuba can claim to be some of the greatest innovations in medical research today. This might be linked to the fact that many people view government support for research and development as an important driver to scientific discovery. Though Cuba is a developing nation, life expectancy is high and Cubans are rated as some of the healthiest people in the world. The health status and lifespan of its citizens might be linked to a preventative public health care approach that views medical care as a birthright.   The heavy investment that the Cuban government has made in scientific research and development is outstanding considering the fact that they have been blocked by the U.S. embargo from obtaining medicines and equipment the country needs.  This has led to a resourcefulness unknown in most countries.  Cuba’s top three innovations in medical research include cancer vaccines, treatment for diabetic foot ulcers and success in preventing HIV transmission from mother to child.

The Cancer Vaccine

One of the best-known innovations in medicine made by Cuba is the CIMAvax-EGF vaccine  This vaccine targets the growth factor in cancer cells, therefore, resulting in the prevention of the spread of the disease.  The CIMAvax-EGF was discovered  by researchers at the Center of Molecular Immunology (CIM) in Havana. This vaccine can be used by people who are at a high risk of cancer.  It is also used generally for the treatment of lung cancer.  CIMAvax-EGF has been used to treat over 5,000 patients worldwide.  It is also very affordable with each vaccine costing only $1 to manufacture.  It  has no known side effects.

Although CIMAvax-EGF drug trials have been tested previously in Cuba, Canada, Colombia, Peru and Paraguay, only recently has the U.S. approved drug trials.  The Roswell Park Cancer Institute which has been actively lobbying to bring the cancer medicine to the U.S., recently announced the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization for clinical trials.  The Roswell Park Cancer Institute will be conducting the first U.S. study of the CIMAvax-EGF vaccine.  The announcement came as Obama opened the doors to more collaboration in medical research in the process of relaxing economic restrictions against Cuba.

There are also other cancer drugs that have been developed  by the Center of Molecular Immunology (CIM). These drugs are known as VSSP and Racotumomab. VSSP was originally designed to help boost the immune response to vaccines. This drug became a medicine for cancer as it appears to enhance the anti-cancer immune response.

Racotumomab, on the other hand, is designed to target a certain molecule that is found on all cancer cells. This means that this drug could one day be used to fight solid tumors colon, prostate, breast, and lung cancer, as well as blood cancer tumors.  Currently, Racotumomab is in the second phase of three clinical trials in Cuba. The three clinical trials being conducted are meant to assess the side effects, adverse reactions, and effectiveness of the drugs.  VSSP, on the other hand, is in the early stages of clinical trials.

Another anti-cancer medicine discovered by Cuban researchers is Vidatox, a natural cancer treatment made from the venom of a blue scorpion.  Labiofam in Cuba is the company behind Vidatox.  According to industry experts, the medication has been proven to be successful in treating certain types of cancers. There is still more research needed to determine how well the medicine will work for other types of cancer.

Advances in the Prevention of the Transmission of HIV and Syphilis from Mother to Child

Cuba is the first country globally to eliminate the transmission of HIV and Syphilis between mother and child. Cuba was recognized as a leader in HIV prevention by the World Health Organization (WHO).  Margaret Chan, director general of WHO, said it was “one of the greatest public health achievements possible” and an important step towards an AIDs-free generation.

Cuba’s health care system aims to “ensure early access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing for both pregnant women and their partners, treatment for women who test positive and their babies, caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding.”

There is treatment for both mothers and babies who test positive for HIV and syphilis. All these services are provided for free in a system that incorporates a standard of care, education and antiretroviral drugs for the treatment of HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

The Treatment for Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Heberprot-P created by BioCubaFarma labs is Cuba’s contribution to help people with diabetes avoid amputations.  Patients suffering from uncontrolled diabetes are at a risk of undergoing  toe, foot, or leg amputation. Diabetes can result in the damage of blood vessels and nerves in the foot. As a result, a patient can develop foot ulcers that can cause deep, red sores with the ability to penetrate to the bone. Gangrene might occur as a result of the ulcers, therefore leading in amputation.

Researchers  from the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology developed the Heberprot-P drug that prevents the need for amputations. Heberprot-P accelerates the skin’s healing process for both ischemic and neuropathic ulcers when injected near the area affected by gangrene, healing tissue and closing the wound in about three months.  Heberprot-P has been used by more than 165,000 patients in 26 different nations.

Collaboration with the United States and the sharing of knowledge and medical advancements will no doubt help improve the health and lives of people in both countries.  With the recent news of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization for the Roswell Park Cancer Institute to conduct the first U.S. clinical trials of Cuba’s cancer vaccine, Americans will eventually no longer have to travel to Cuba from other countries to obtain the medicines they need.

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