While thoughts of travelling to Cuba's unspoiled beaches was likely the first thing that came to many American's minds when Cuba and the United States said they were going to be friends again, a more important benefit is coming our way.
The Roswell Park Cancer Institute of Buffalo, New York signed an agreement this week to import a Cuban lung cancer vaccine. The drug, named CimaVax, helps treat symptoms and recurrence of the deadly disease, said institute director Candace Johnson. Dr Johnson returned Tuesday from a two-day trade trip to the island.
“[Lung cancer] patients have a very high risk for recurrence. You have one nodule, you know you are maybe going to be get another nodule. You can now take this vaccine that could help prevent a recurrence,” Johnson told Buffalo TV's WIVB News 4.
The institute will perform clinical trials of CimaVax in the United States and seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Johnson said. Cuban scientists will also travel to Buffalo to help with testing and research work.
The delegation to Cuba was led by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the first U.S. governor to visit Cuba since Presidents Obama and Castro announced the historic thaw of relations back in December.
Following the announcement the Obama administration has rewritten some Cuba policies, which now allow deals like this. Only Congress can change the full scope of the embargo however.
The tiny island has long invested in medical research and is known for putting its extensive health system to work in 'doctor diplomacy'.
CimaVax was developed by the government-run Molecular Immunology Center. The drug is not new, and Cuba hasn't kept its success a secret. Cuban researchers began testing the drug in the 1990s and major world media outlets have reported on it in the 2000s.
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths, killing over 163,000 Americans annually, according to the American Cancer Society.