Can you tell me about the CimaVax lung cancer vaccine?
CimaVax EGF is a vaccine treatment being developed in Cuba for non small cell lung cancer.
The vaccine targets a particular protein called epidermal growth factor (EGF). EGF occurs naturally in the body and signals to cells to grow and divide. It does this by attaching to a receptor protein on the cell surface. Some cancers make the body produce too much EGF so that the cells grow and divide uncontrollably.
The CimaVax vaccine is made up of two proteins, one of which is EGF. The vaccine works by stimulating the body’s immune response. It encourages the body to make antibodies that recognise and bind to EGF. This stops the EGF attaching to the receptors on cancer cells. So there is no signal telling the cancer cells to grow and divide. This slows the growth of the cancer.
You can read our detailed information about cancer vaccines.
Several small trials using the vaccine have had promising results. The results of a phase 2 trial for people with advanced non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) were published in early 2008. The trial involved 80 people with stage 3b and stage 4 NSCLC. Everyone in the trial had chemotherapy. After chemotherapy was complete, half of the people had the vaccine. The aims of the trial were to find out
- If the vaccine could help people live longer
- What side effects people have
- The immune response people had to it
The results showed that people who had the vaccine lived slightly longer – on average about 4 to 6 months. It also improved people’s quality of life by reducing symptoms such as coughing and breathlessness.
The trial results also showed that people younger than 60 did better than those who were over 60. There were 12 people under 60 who had a good immune response and their improvement in survival was greatest – they lived on average for just over 15 months compared to 7.4 months for people who didn’t have the vaccine. Do remember that this is a small group – 12 is really too small a number to draw any firm conclusions.
The side effects of the vaccine were mild. The most common effects were chills, fever and feeling sick.
The researchers tested whether people produced antibodies to EGF (an immune response) with a blood test. People who showed an immune response on the test did better than people who did not produce antibodies.
This research is promising but this is a small trial and we will need more trial results before we know exactly how well the vaccine works for people with lung cancer. A phase 3 trial is currently in progress in Cuba. There aren’t any trials in the UK at the moment.
CimaVax isn’t available at the moment in the UK. It has been approved in Cuba and is used in hospitals there. Trials are planned for other countries and are expected to start in the USA in late 2015 or early 2016. We need positive results from these trials before CimaVax can become more widely available.
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