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Precision cancer treatment for dogs moves towards human testing

Published on 29/01/19 at 11:11am

Scientists at the University of Missouri have developed a patient specific, precision medicine treatment for bone cancer in dogs. The treatment, a vaccine created from the dogs own tumour, is able to target specific cancer cells and thus avoid the toxic effects of chemotherapy.

“A vaccine is made out of the dog's own tumour for the dog's immune system to recognize,” said Jeffrey Bryan, a professor of oncology at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and director of Comparative Oncology Radiobiology and Epigenetics Laboratory. “The dogs received no chemotherapy and received only immunotherapy after their surgery. It's the first time that dogs with osteosarcoma have experienced prolonged survival without receiving chemotherapy, which is really exciting.”

The cancer vaccine was effective in treating osteosarcoma, a cancer that is rare in humans but common in dogs. Dogs who received the treatment had on average 400 days of remission compared to 270 days for those dogs receiving chemotherapy.

The vaccine used a dogs own lymphocytes (a subtype of white blood cell found in the immune system) which attacked and destroyed tumour cells thus fighting the cancer.

“Lymphocytes are immune cells that recognize where pathogens are hiding in the body and then kill the cells harbouring those pathogens,” Bryan said. “After we remove the tumour, we create a vaccine using the dog's tumour cells to stimulate anti-tumour lymphocytes. These lymphocytes are then collected by apheresis and expanded outside the body by Elias Animal Health to create a transfusion of the patient's immune cells. These cells are activated and essentially really angry at whatever they are supposed to attack. When put back into the body, they should identify and destroy tumour cells. Ideally, this immune response would destroy every last tumour cell.”

The researchers now hope to optimise the new therapy for testing in human clinical trials. Between 800-900 new cases of osteosarcoma in humans are recorded each year in the United States, the majority of which are reported in children and teens.

Louis Goss

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