You may already be familiar with vaccines, such as the flu shot, chickenpox or measles vaccine. In vaccines, a small amount of foreign protein (an antigen) is injected into the body. The goal is to teach the immune system what to attack to fight the cancer. There are two types of cancer vaccines that are being studied:
- Therapeutic vaccines: Used to treat cancer. for most therapeutic cancer vaccines, the antigen is something normally found in lung cancer or is from a sample of your cancer. The vaccination then boosts the immune system’s ability to fight the cancer. There are many clinical trials testing these types of cancer vaccines.
- Preventive vaccines: Used to keep cancer from developing. Preventive vaccines are not currently available for lung cancer. The only preventive cancer vaccines approved in the U.S. are human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines and hepatitis B vaccines.
CIMAvax is a therapeutic vaccine in which the antigen is a protein that the cancer needs to grow. The immune system attacks that protein, with the goal of “starving” the tumor.
There is a lot of interest in the CIMAvax-EGF vaccine from Cuba. It is important to note that we do not yet have the scientific data we need to show this drug works. CIMAvax is being studied in a clinical trial at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Only if it is shown to be safe and effective will it be approved for use in the United States.