A development in precision medicine in cancer treatment for dogs has led to a similar advancement in cancer treatment for humans. The findings of the joined successes are published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
It started with a clinical trial at the University of Missouri's College of Veterinary Medicine which tested a new cancer treatment on dogs with osteosarcoma, a canine bone cancer that attacks over 10,000 dogs every year in the US. While osteosarcoma is usually treated with chemotherapy, painful side effects and resistant cancer cells leave room for improvement for this therapy.
That’s why Professor Jeffrey Bryan, associate director of comparative oncology for the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and a faculty research lead for the NextGen Precision Health Institute, decided to work with ELIAS Animal Health to develop a vaccine from a dog's own tumor to target and kill cancer cells.
"This precision medicine approach uses the patient's own tumor to make a vaccine, which stimulates the immune system against the abnormal proteins specific to the patient's tumor, causing the body to generate white blood cells, called lymphocytes," said Bryan. "We then harvest and expand these lymphocytes outside the body, which activates them so they are highly aggressive toward their target. By infusing them back into the patient's body they can seek out and destroy the harmful cancer cells."
The trial showed that dogs receiving this therapy had more than 400 days of cancer survival compared to about 270 days for dogs receiving chemotherapy - enough of a success for the FDA to take notice and grant collaborating researchers the go-ahead to use the immunotherapy to treat glioblastoma multiforme (a type of human brain cancer).
"Both osteosarcoma in dogs and glioblastoma multiforme in people are very aggressive diseases that tend to take the patient's life quickly, and they both express mutant proteins that can be targets for the immune system," said Bryan. "The beauty of this immunotherapy approach is it can be theoretically generalized for any kind of cancer. The advancement to these human trials shows that we can apply this technology to help treat different diseases that are very deadly and have few effective therapies currently."
The team has high hopes for the future of this type of precision medicine. "My hope is that one day this approach can be used to treat bone cancer in children," Bryan said. "My overall goal is to be part of discoveries that not only benefit dogs but humans as well."