Argentina announced Friday the successful development of a "therapeutic vaccine" for lung cancer patients, which is considered the "first innovative drug" to treat the disease.
It is a "new resource for a group of patients who did not have many alternatives," said Daniel Alonso, director of the Molecular Oncology Laboratory from the National University of Quilmes and researcher from the National Science and Technology Council ( Conicet), in a statement Friday.
The drug, scientifically named "racotumomab", was jointly developed by hundred scientists from Argentina and from Havana's Institute of Molecular Immunology in Cuba, who succeeded in identifying an antigen that is applicable to the disease.
Scientists successfully developed a monoclonal antibody which, once introduced to the body, causes a reaction against the antigen and therefore attacks the tumor and stops its metastasis, instead of attacking the normal tissue.
"This is very important because these antigens are located in the surface of the tumor cells, therefore accessible to the immune system," Alonso said, adding "this allows us to focus on the therapeutic action, since they are absent from the normal tissues. "
Roberto Gomez, medical director of Elea laboratory, who joined in the research, said "if we compare chemotherapy or radiotherapy with the vaccine, we can say that the first ones are like a bomb while the vaccine is like using a telescopic view and guides the action towards the specific target."
The vaccine "has not the most relevant side effects, but only occasional discomfort in the place of the shot or, eventually, flu- like symptoms that spontaneously disappear," according to the scientists.
The vaccine is indicated for advanced cases which have been treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy and in a stable condition, because if the disease has a fast progress there is no time for the immune system to efficiently respond.
Gomez said the treatment "begins with an induction period, with five dosages of intradermal injection every 14 days."
It is expected the vaccine will be available once the requirements of the National Drug, Food and Medical Technology National Administration Office are met next July.
According to Argentina's National Cancer Institute, lung tumors occupy the fourth place in incidence after breast, prostate and colon tumors, causing some 9,000 deaths each year in Argentina.