HAVANA — A California company is seeking U.S. permission to license a promising Cuban cancer drug that is barred from the United States by trade sanctions, Cuban scientists said at a biotechnology conference this week.
CancerVax Corp., based in Carlsbad, Calif., wants to conduct joint research on cancer vaccines being developed in Havana, said Luis Herrera, the director of Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.
CancerVax said it has signed letters of intent with Cuba’s Center for Molecular Biology (CIM) and Canada’s YM Biosciences relating to the license of an antibody that can slow or halt tumors by acting on the body’s immune system.
The monoclonal antibody, which targets a cancer-growth factor known as the HER-1 receptor, has been tested in Canada for head and neck cancer with positive results, and is undergoing trials in China and India, CIM director Augustin Lage said.
A definitive agreement on U.S. licensing for this technology will depend on government approval, including a license from the U.S. Treasury’s office that enforces trade sanctions on Cuba.
The Cuban monoclonal antibody, combined with radiotherapy, has doubled the rate of cancer remission in trials in Cuba and Canada, Lage said.