A Regina woman who was diagnosed with lung cancer and given a year to live says she’s now in remission thanks to a vaccine she received in Cuba.

Judy Bryden, who received the devastating diagnosis in 2016, travelled to Cuba last year to receive treatment and pick up several doses of the CIMAvax EGF vaccine.  The vaccine was developed for non-small cell lung cancer, which represents up to 85 per cent of all lung cancers.

After taking the vaccine doses over several months, Bryden said a recent scan of her lungs found no cancer.

“When they told me I had a year to live, I said I was going to prove them wrong,” Bryden told CTV Regina. “I didn't know how, but I was going to prove them wrong.”

She wishes that CIMAvax was available in Canada for other patients like her who have run out of treatment options.

After her diagnosis, Bryden underwent chemotherapy and five radiation treatments, which failed to halt the progress of her cancer. When her husband, Lorne Bryden, started searching online for other treatment options, he learned about CIMAvax.

The vaccine works by triggering the patient’s own immune system to produce antibodies against a protein linked to growth and multiplication of cancer cells. Studies have suggested that CIMAvax can prolong survival time for non-small cell cancer patients. One clinical trial found that long-term administration of CIMAvax was “very safe.”

Health Canada said that CIMAvax is not available in Canada because no application has been submitted for the vaccine’s approval here. Health Canada said it does not actively solicit new drug submissions.

“The company is responsible for submitting an application to Health Canada so their product can be approved on the Canadian market and only once we receive that application will we review (it),” Health Canada spokesperson Renelle Briand told CTV Regina.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a clinical trial of CIMAvax in the U.S. in 2016. The trial was expected to enroll up to 90 patients and take three years to complete.

The Brydens arranged their trip to Cuba through CubaHeal, which facilitates medical tourism and patient care in the Caribbean country. They paid a $135 fee to submit Bryden’s medical information before she could travel to Cuba.

The total cost of the CIMAvax treatment isn’t cheap. A trip to Havana, plus a year’s worth of injections, costs about $14,500.

Bryden said the money she and her husband paid for her treatment is “worth it.” Lorne Bryden plans to travel to Cuba again in a few days to pick up more doses of the vaccine for his wife.

With a report from CTV Regina’s Colton Wiens