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Canine osteosarcoma vaccine shows great promise

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A recent update from Dr. Nicola Mason of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is sparking renewed hope and enthusiasm among dog lovers worldwide, as a possible cure for canine osteosarcoma appears within reach. Although the study is far from complete, the school recently posted the following on its Facebook page:

"It is now over 16 months since the first dog diagnosed with spontaneous osteosarcoma received an experimental bone cancer vaccine at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. The vaccine is being administered to pet dogs that have been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive tumor that affects the long bones of large and giant breed dogs.

With current standard of care, that consists of amputation and follow up chemotherapy, median survival times are between 200 and 300 days. The aim of the vaccine, given to dogs after amputation and chemotherapy, is to prevent metastatic disease and prolong overall survival. Of the first 5 dogs vaccinated in this clinical trial, 4 of the dogs are still alive and have survived between 500 and 590 days; three of these dogs are tumor free. Other dogs have been vaccinated more recently so long term survival data for these dogs is not yet available.

“These results are really very exciting” Dr. Nicola Mason, the lead investigator on the trial explains. “They suggest that the vaccine is able to stimulate an effective anti-tumor immune response that is able to kill microscopic metastatic cells and prevent tumor recurrence in these dogs.”

Importantly, the vaccine appears to be safe. Only low-grade toxicities consisting of a mild fever and occasionally one episode of vomiting the same day as vaccination have been reported. There have been no long or short-term complications observed with the vaccine. The results are highly promising and a larger phase II clinical trial is now being planned at Penn and at collaborating sites including Colorado State University and the University of Florida.

If you would like to learn more about the clinical trial and are interested in enrolling your patient or your own dog, please contact Dr. Nicola Mason, BVetMed, PhD, DACVIM at 215 898 3996 or by e-mail at nmason@vet.upenn.edu."

Perhaps of even greater import are the potential implications Dr. Mason's work may have on human cancer therapies. Since dogs and humans are identical on a molecular level, the results of this study could provide breakthroughs in the treatment of breast cancer in women and osteosarcoma in children.

One day soon we may be celebrating cures rather than treatments for both our beloved pets as well as ourselves, and it all may be the result of the tireless work and selfless dedication researchers like Dr. Mason - as well as their canine patients and human caregivers - have provided.

Best friends, indeed.

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