|Cuba's Centre for Molecular Immunology|
Despite the idiotic and inhumane US embargo against Cuba, it is really impressive to see how the island continues heroically developing new methodologies in healthcare and exporting this wisdom to developing countries, providing excellent healthcare and educational services.
Though it receives almost zero coverage in the western media, Cuba's strength in primary healthcare does not go unnoticed by world bodies such as the World Health Organization, whose website currently carries this article on the introduction of biotechnology in cancer treatment in Cuba, which indicates just how far Cuba has gone in turning cancer from a deadly into a chronic disease.
Cuba, it says, is following the WHO's guidelines and is implementing a national cancer plan which provides universal access to all approaches to the disease, from prevention, diagnosis, treatment and palliative care.
According to the WHO article "Cuba- Battling cancer with biotechnology," the plan is underpinned by a strong primary health care system that enables doctors to see their patients regularly and catch health problems at an early stage.
The article refers to the Cuban government's Centre for Molecular Immunology, a "major investment in biotechnology" and says that "Cuban researchers and scientists have recently made significant progress in their search for new cancer treatments and tools to improve diagnosis and prevention". Among these was the register in 2008 of the first vaccine for the therapeutic treatment of advanced lung cancer developed by the Centre for Molecular Immunology, Havana. In 2013, a second vaccine for the treatment of advanced lung cancer was patented.
The General Director of the Centre for Molecular Immunology, Dr Agustin Lage Davila, says that "Biotechnology is key to transforming cancer from a deadly disease into a chronic one" and adds that the new technologies support chemo and radio therapy making them less toxic.The Centre has also developed the anti-cancer drug nimotuzumab, to treat advanced tumours, for example in the head, neck and brain. Nimotuzumab is a “monoclonal antibody” that mimics human immune cells and binds to specific target molecules of cancer cells. It targets a protein that can cause uncontrolled cell division and growth. The drug is currently going through clinical trials in Japan and Europe.
Even in times of economic hardship, the Cuban Government has thus remained constant in its political and financial support for biotechnology. In the last 20 years it has invested around one billion US dollars in research and development. Today, the Cuban biotech industry holds around 1200 international patents and markets pharmaceutical products and vaccines in more than 50 countries. Exports are soaring and generate yearly revenues of several hundred million dollars. More than 90 new products are currently being investigated in more than 60 clinical trials.
The tremendous benefit from this is that Cuba is producing more affordable drugs to tackle diseases that run rampant in low- and middle-income countries.