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August 7, 2019

Testing Cancer Vaccines in Canines

Man's best friend---and certainly woman's as well---is vulnerable. Particularly, individual species of dogs are susceptible to cancer. The Vaccine Against Canine Cancer Study is testing a ground-breaking new cancer prevention mechanism that may eliminate that exposure. This study could easily lead to the development of a cancer vaccine for dogs and, ultimately, for the humans who love them.

An Alliance of University Researchers
Conducted by Colorado State University (CSU---the same university for which I will be a faculty member for Semester at Sea®), the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of California, Davis (homes for the clinical trials) have teamed up to conduct this five-year research study. The clinical trials of the study are being led by director of clinical research at the CSU's Flint Animal Cancer Center, Douglas Thamm.

The Vaccine's Regimen
Dogs receive their vaccine doses every other week for a total of four doses. Then, the animals get boosters every year of the five-year study. Thamm believes that at the earliest the clinical trial could yield results in two or three years. Besides a reduction in cancer cases among the study's participants, the researchers will be paying attention for unexpected side effects as well.

How the Researchers Hope the Vaccine Will Work
Theoretically, the vaccine will work similarly to vaccines for any virus, like the flu. This vaccine will support the immune system to recognize proteins associated with cancer within cells, so the body can destroy the cancer cells, as they begin to develop. If (or better, when) the vaccine is successful, it might be able to function as a "universal cancer vaccine," that could prevent multiple different kinds of cancer. (To me, this aspect is the most exciting!)

Developed at Arizona State University
The vaccine was developed by professor and director of the Biodesign Center for Innovations in Medicine at Arizona State University, Stephen Johnston. This researcher and his team tested the vaccine in mice, until they found one to be effective and safe.

Interested in Supporting the Study?
With funding coming from the Open Philanthropy Project, the cost of the study is $8,000 USD per dog or about $6.4 million USD for the entire trial. Of the 800 healthy, middle-aged dogs required for the nationwide study, the three universities participating have recruited about 100. Study participantsŐ owners must live within 150 miles of a university conducting the trial---since the dogs have to be in the clinic for check-ups every six months. For dog owners, there is a time commitment, however participation comes with a unique benefit: any owner whose dog develops cancer during the trial will be given a hospital credit that can be used for the diagnoses and treatment of the canine disease.

Two Main Goals
There are two main goals for the trial: First, the researchers want to find out if their vaccine will work for dogs. Second, the team expects to learn whether their vaccine might also work to short-circuit cancer in humans. The potential for changing the cancer landscape is enormous. We can only hope that humans will not be far behind.

Special thanks to The Coloradoan for their coverage of this breakthrough study. To learn more about how your pet may participate, visit here.


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