We’re Almost There
Stopping cancer is one of the most important things that a biologist can work on. It takes the life of 7 million people a year. There’s good news though, which we need, and it’s coming from Cuba:
Cuba has for several years had a promising therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer. The 55-year trade embargo led by the US made sure that Cuba was mostly where it stayed. Until—maybe—now.
How did Cuba end up with a cutting edge immuno-oncology drug? Though the country is justly famous for cigars, rum, and baseball, it also has some of the best and most inventive biotech and medical research in the world.
The vaccine doesn’t attack tumors directly, instead going after a protein that tumors produce which then circulates in the blood. That action spurs a person’s body to release antibodies against a hormone called epidermal growth factor, which typically spurs cell growth but can also, if unchecked, cause cancer. So the point of Cimavax is to keep lung tumors from growing and metastasizing, turning a late-stage growth into something chronic but manageable.
Fucking wow. And:
And that drug isn’t the only one with potential in the Cuban pharmacopeia. Thomas Rothstein, a biologist at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, has for six years worked with the Center for Molecular Immunology on another vaccine to treat lung cancer called Racotumomab, with an entirely different mechanism. (It messes with a particular lipid found in tumor cell membranes.) “Investigators from around the world are trying to crack the nut of cancer,” Rothstein says. “The Cubans are thinking in ways that are novel and clever.”
B-b-but socialism doesn’t work!