Cuba uses comprehensive plan to fight cancer

Global Business

Officials with the World Health Organization say cancer is one of the major killer diseases in Cuba. Every year, thousands of people die of cancer on the island.  In response, Cuba put in place a comprehensive plan more than a decade ago.

CGTN’s Luis Chirino reports there has been progress.

In Cuba, where cancer is the second leading cause of death after cardiovascular disease, patients have access to a Comprehensive Cancer Control Program.

Dr. Maria Caridad Rubio, Director, Cuban Cancer Control Program says, “Primary health care allows early cancer diagnosis first; then we provide patients with the best treatment by using all resources— surgery, chemo and radiation therapies and even pharmaceutical drugs produced by our own scientific centers.”

CimaVax is a Cuban-patented drug aimed at preventing the recurrence of lung cancer. It helps the body generate its own immune system in a way that starves the cancer and stops it from growing.

The vaccine has been administered to thousands of Cubans and could benefit many U.S. patients through the first joint U.S.-Cubabio technology venture setup last year for clinical trials.

Doug Plessinger, U.S.-Cuba Innovative Immunotherapy Alliance says, “We have some very unique cancer medicines of Cuban origin developed by the Center for Molecular Immunology that could truly benefit and impact U.S. cancer patients.”

Cuban doctors say treatment has been successful despite hurdles posed by the U.S. trade embargo.

Dr. Ramon del Castillo, Director, Radiotherapy Department at Oncological Hospital says, “This equipment is used for radiation treatment but some of it is broken. We’ve kept it in boxes because we have no access to spare parts from the U.S.”

Nelsa Romero has uterine cancer. She’s undergoing radiation treatments.

“Everything here is marvelous, I do not have to pay a single cent for this treatment. Both doctors and nurses treat us so well in this hospital,” said Romero. 

According to Dr.  Rubio, in Cuba, where cancer killed more than 2,000 people last year, lung cancer ranks first, followed by breast and colon cancer in women, and prostate and colon cancer in men.

Cuba has also taken its cancer treatment to other nations.

Dr. Maria Caridad Rubio, Director, Cuban Cancer Control Program says, “Nearly all countries of the world have received the help of Cuban doctors. In the field of cancer, we’ve been to Africa– Angola, Ethiopia, South Africa. We have assisted patients there, and we have trained doctors to help fight cancer on the continent.”

Experts say that some 40 percent of all cancer cases in the world could be avoided by reducing key risk factors like unhealthy life styles, because the best antidote against cancer is prevention.