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Vets develop first immunotherapy for dog cancer

A dog joins in during the LGBT parade during the annual Pride In London parade on June 28, 2014, in London, England
A dog joins in during the LGBT parade during the annual Pride In London parade on June 28, 2014, in London, England
Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images

Older dogs have a high incidence of cancer. Many of the therapies to treat cancer that have been developed for humans are applicable to dogs without changes except for size and weight. Scientists at the Messerli Research Institute of the Vetmeduni Vienna, the Medical University of Vienna, and the University of Vienna have developed the first immunotherapy for cancer in dogs. The research was reported in the July 4, 2104, edition of the journal Cancer Therapeutics.

Immunotherapy develops antibodies that are specific to the chemical structure of cancer proteins that usually exist on the surface of cancer cells. The antibodies developed for immunotherapy can inhibit tumor growth directly. Some applications of antibodies in immunotherapy permit fluorescent targeting of cancer cells for radiation therapy. Antibodies for use in immunotherapy in people are derived from mice. The antibody grown in mice must be adjusted to fit human cancer cells.

Cancer in dogs was found to be much like cancer in people. The most common human target for immunotherapy in humans was found to be near 100 percent the same in dogs. Some tweaking of the antibodies used in immunotherapy in humans was necessary to produce maximum effectiveness in dogs. Many immunotherapy antibodies that already exist for human use can be restructured to fit cancers that are common in dogs. The expected benefits for dogs are the same as in humans.

The immunotherapy for dog cancers has proven successful in a small trial sample. Large trial studies are planned to determine side effects and produce any needed structural changes in the immunotherapeutic agents that maximize the benefits in dogs. Immunotherapy is expected to produce a treatment for some cancers that occur in dogs that presently have no known treatment. People love their dogs. It only seems fitting that human cancer treatment should produce a treatment for cancer in animals that have been human protectors and companions for thousands of years.