Published on 11 May 2015 by Wired

cimavax

Cuba has for several years had a promising therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer. The 55-year trade embargo led by the US made sure that Cuba was mostly where it stayed. Until—maybe—now.

The Obama administration has, of course, been trying to normalize relations with the island nation. And last month, during New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s visit to Havana, Roswell Park Cancer Institute finalized an agreement with Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology to develop a lung cancer vaccine and begin clinical trials in the US. Essentially, US researchers will bring the Cimavax vaccine stateside and get on track for approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The chance to evaluate a vaccine like this is a very exciting prospect,” says Candace Johnson, CEO of Roswell Park. She’s excited, most likely, because research on the vaccine so far shows that it has low toxicity, and it’s relatively cheap to produce and store. The Center for Molecular Immunology will give Roswell Park all of the documentation (how it’s produced, toxicity data, results from past trials) for an FDA drug application; Johnson says she hopes to get approval for testing Cimavax within six to eight months, and to start clinical trials in a year.

How did Cuba end up with a cutting edge immuno-oncology drug? Though the country is justly famous for cigars, rum, and baseball, it also has some of the best and most inventive biotech and medical research in the world. That’s especially notable for a country where the average worker earns $20 a month. Cuba spends a fraction of the money the US does on healthcare per individual; yet the average Cuban has a life expectancy on par with the average American. “They’ve had to do more with less,” says Johnson, “so they’ve had to be even more innovative with how they approach things. For over 40 years, they have had a preeminent immunology community.”

Despite decades of economic sanctions, Fidel and Raul Castro made biotechnology and medical research, particularly preventative medicine, a priority. After the 1981 dengue fever outbreak struck nearly 350,000 Cubans, the government established the Biological Front, an effort to focus research efforts by various agencies toward specific goals. Its first major accomplishment was the successful (and unexpected) production of interferon, a protein that plays a role in human immune response. Since then, Cuban immunologists made several other vaccination breakthroughs, including their own vaccines for meningitis B and hepatitis B, and monoclonal antibodies for kidney transplants.

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Published on 30 May by Prensa Latina

cuba-eeuu-banderas

The removal of Cuba from a U.S. list of nations that sponsor terrorism was among the most significant news in the United States this week.

Spokesman for the State Department, Jeff Rathke, said that the 45-day notification of Congress expired and Secretary of State John Kerry decided to remove Cuba from such a list. For its full implementation, the step must be published in the official U.S. journal Federal Register, though Rathke said it is in force.

According to the release, Cuba has not given support to international terrorism in the past six months and gave guarantees that it won't back any such act in the future.

Yesterday, The New York Times described the White House step as crucial, as it leaves behind the Cold War hostility that for many years characterized the relatopns between the United States and Cuba. Though the Cuban authoriies did not raised this issue as a precondition to advance towards a resumption of links between the two nations, they reiterated that the Island should have never been in such a list in the first place, which they attributed to political motives.

This step is in line with pronouncements by Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama, who on Dec. 17 informed their decision to resume those links and open embasises in both capitals.

Sources from the Cuban Foreign Ministry have reiterated that the main hurdle to a normalization of USA-Cuba relations is atill in force: the U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba for over half a century, causing the Island billions of US dollars in losses.

Many U.S. legislators who have visited Cuba in the past few weeks agree in saying that there is bipartisan consensus in Congress for lifting the blockade.

But as Congress decides on the issue, Obama is in capacity to use its executive powers and, according to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, he can eliminate most of the restrictions of the blockade against Cuba.

Published on 25 May by Granma

cuba-us interest

It has been five months since Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama announced on December 17 their intention to open a new chapter in relations between the United States and Cuba. 
After an historic meeting between both leaders at the 7th Summit of the Americas, on May 21, the third round of conversations began in Washington, with the goal of advancing toward the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies in both countries,.

Although talks between the U.S. and Cuba are already, in themselves, a milestone for two neighboring countries which have lacked formal ties for more than half a century, they only mark the beginning of a much longer and complicated process.

Inaccuracies and distorted information have accompanied this process from the beginning.Granma shares with its readers seven key points which clarify the dimension of what is happening between Havana and Washington and the coming stage.

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Published on 25 May by Granma

Nepal

One month has past since the devastating April 25 earthquake in Nepal, and two weeks since the powerful May 12 aftershock, the same night Cuba’s Henry Reeve Medical Brigade arrived in the country. Forty-nine Cuban medical professionals are taking on the population’s needs, defying the damage, fear and grief around them.

Cities lie in ruin and the number of victims has surpassed 8,600. Anxiety remains fixed on faces, since the country continues to experience aftershocks.

On the night of May 12, the same night a severe aftershock hit the nation, 49 members of the Henry Reeve International Contingent Specialized in Disasters and Large Epidemics Brigade No.41 arrived in Katmandu.

“The landscape was disheartening, Dantesque, I would say. The country didn’t need nature to punish it this way. Those who managed to save their lives in the most affected areas have lost practically everything, including their most cherished loved ones,” Dr. Luis Orlando Oliveros Serrano, head of the Brigade, told Granma.

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Published on 26 May 2015 by TeleSUR English

cuba life exp

Cuban officials with the Center for the Study of Population and Development, known as CEPDE, revealed Monday that life expectancy in Cuba, already one of the highest in the world, now reaches 78.45 years. Juan Carlos Alfonso Fraga, director of CEPDE, said the figure represents an increase of nearly half a year over the previous study of life expectancy on the island. He added that the bump was seen throughout all the provinces of Cuba and not just confined to urban areas, where medical attention tends to be of better quality.

Life expectancy for women was slightly higher at 80.45 years, with the life span for men at 76.50 years. Cuba is in the top 25 countries in the world for life expectancy, which is considered an important indicator of human development and quality of healthcare. Despite its status as a low-income country, Cuba's medical system is recognized as one of the best in the world.

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Published on 14 may 2015 by Granmacimavax

Two days of fruitful debate in the 5th CIMAvax-EGF International Workshop on the first registered therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer, confirmed that after two decades of clinical experience in the use of this vaccine, the treatment has been proven safe and effective given the positive reaction of patients, the increase in survival rates and improved quality of life.

An excellent prognosis in a context where lung cancer, according to the Annual Health Statistics report 2014, is among the top causes of death for both men and women in the country, and is one of the illnesses showing the greatest increase in both genders.

The Workshop, organized by CIMAB S.A - biopharmaceutical entity dedicated to the development and commercialization of cancer medicines, affiliated with the Molecular Immunology Center (CIM) - was the ideal place to present the final results of the study confirming the effectiveness of CIMAvax-EGF in treating advanced pulmonary cancer; the use of the vaccine in treating lung cancer at a primary healthcare level; its global safety accreditation; biomarkers to predict patients’ response to the vaccine; post-registration experiences in other countries; CIMAvax-EGF in the context of therapies directed toward patients with lung cancer; and its use in treating prostate cancer.

According to information presented during the event, more than 3,000 patients, the majority Cubans, have benefited from the vaccine. Dr. Giselle Suárez, expert at CIM’s commercial office, reported to the press that since 2015, the vaccine has been included in the country’s basic catalogue of essential medicines, and is available across all levels of the national health system.

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Published on 13 May 2015 by Granma

bloqueoOn April 14, President Barack Obama notified the U.S. Congress of his decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. From that date, the government must allow a period of 45 days for Congressional and public comment, before Cuba’s removal from the list becomes effective.

Two weeks ago, Cuban-born Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican-Florida) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to reverse the President’s decision. However, her efforts met with resounding failure, and she was forced to withdraw the bill. In doing so, she misleadingly claimed there were no legislative mechanisms which allow for the repeal of the de-listing of Cuba, which is not true, as Congress has the necessary procedures to maintain the designation of a country as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The reality is that the anti-Cuban Congresswoman failed to garner the required support, even among members of the Republican Party, which currently holds the majority in both houses of Congress, to pass a law that would override Obama’s decision and survive a possible presidential veto.

This means that once the 45 days established by law have passed, on May 29, the inclusion of Cuba as a terrorist state will end.


This constitutes an act of historical justice for the Cuban people.

For 33 years the U.S. government unjustifiably kept our country on an ignominious list, on which it never should have been included, as a country that was victim to hundreds of terrorist acts which killed 3,478 people and incapacitated 2,099 Cuban citizens. Cuba has always condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, as well as any action that seeks to provide encouragement, support, financing and concealment of acts of this nature. As a sign of its international commitment, the Cuban state has ratified all conventions and protocols on combating terrorism promoted by the United Nations.

A positive outcome of the presidential decision on Cuba in the legal field, will be the eradication of the possibility of further spurious claims against the Cuban government, as filed in the past by unscrupulous people who, protected by U.S. anti-terrorism laws and with the complicity of courts, especially in Miami, won compensatory damages that allowed them to seize assets frozen in the United States belonging to Cuban state entities, by virtue of our designation as a sponsor of terrorism.

However, the definitive exclusion from this list does not imply any relief from the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba. This is because most of the laws and regulations which established the blockade policy were approved before 1982, when Cuba was declared a state sponsor of terrorism. The sanctions and restrictions that this designation implies were therefore already in place as part of the blockade.

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cuba nepal doc

More than 8,000 people have died as a consequence of the earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April 2015. Over 16,000 people have been injured and hundreds-of-thousands left homeless. Those figures will rise further in the coming days as substantial damage and destruction – inflicted on an already insufficient healthcare system – has meant hospitals are turning patients away due to lack of supplies or capacity. In the capital, Kathmandu, with a population of over one million, the city’s maternity hospital has just 150 beds available due to partial destruction. The response of the so-called ‘international community’ has been typical. Whilst aid agencies such as the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières have deployed much-needed emergency workers, few governments have gone further than pledges of money, food or supplies by committing to provision of the necessary medical aid.

It is in this context that in the early morning of Friday 8 May a team of forty-nine Cubans, part of the prestigious Henry Reeve International Brigade (a ten-thousand-strong band of Cuban health professionals specialising in disaster response) departed for Nepal. On arrival the team will establish a field hospital equipped with surgery and intensive care units, diagnostics, consultation areas and recovery services – all provided by Cuba’s socialist government. From the moment the disaster struck, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs investigated the unfolding situation and began to make the necessary preparations for an effective, long-term medical intervention.

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Published on 6 May 2015 by Granma Internacional

mariela

The 8th Cuban Day against Homophobia and Transphobia began this Tuesday with a press conference and the inauguration of the photo exhibition Continuing Forward by U.S. artist Byron Motley at the National Center for Sex Education (Ce­nesex) headquarters, which along with the Cuban Workers’ Federation has organized an extensive program of activities, which will continue through May 23 across the provinces of Havana and Las Tunas.

Mariela Castro Espín, director of Cene­sex, highlighted the importance of informing and educating the Cuban population in the need to accept and respect free and responsible sexual orientation and gender identity, rights which when not respected by all, become a problem which generates suffering and exclusion.

In this regard she noted that this year Cenesex has launched a new campaign as part of its ongoing communicative and sex education strategy, which aims to promote, under the banner of “count me in,” homophobia or transphobia free work spaces.

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