Tag Archives: Kansas State University

Clinical trials to help beat cancer

Raelene Wouda’s passion for improving cancer treatment starts with our four-legged friends.

Dog cancer photo
Wouda, Kansas State University assistant professor of clinical sciences, is conducting clinical trials to treat cancers in dogs, cats and other companion animals.

When pet owners bring their dogs, cats, horses and other animals to the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Health Center for treatment, Wouda and the Oncology Service can offer groundbreaking new treatments often at a lower cost to pet owners.

Wouda also is able to study important topics, such as improved diagnostic testing, monitoring approaches and innovative treatment options, including anti-cancer vaccines, t-cell transfer, combination chemotherapy and nanoparticle drug formulations. She has recently published her research in Veterinary Comparative Oncology and the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“Although surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and, more recently, immunotherapy have improved patient outcomes, many cancers still do not have a long-term cure,” said Wouda, a clinical veterinary oncologist. “These clinical trials are a crucial step.”

But Wouda’s research benefits humans, too. Many cancers in animals — especially dogs — are similar to those in humans, which means that the diagnosis, monitoring, treatment and response to treatment are also similar.

“Any research that we do in our patients has the potential to provide important information for how the disease can be better diagnosed, monitored and treated in human patients,” Wouda said. “That’s what I would like to do with our research. I would like to continue to improve outcomes for our veterinary patients and, by extension, help human cancer patients.”

Companion animals offer several research advantages. Wouda’s clinical trial program focuses primarily on dogs because of the similarities between their cancers and human cancers, such as osteosarcoma, melanoma, lung cancer and urogenital cancers. Osteosarcoma, for example, is both clinically and genetically almost identical in dogs and human pediatric patients.

Dogs also live with us and are exposed to the same environmental factors. Additionally, because dogs age faster than humans — one dog year is equivalent to seven human years — their diseases progress faster, which is a practical advantage for rapidly evaluating a new treatment’s efficacy and clinical benefit, Wouda said.

“We get clinical answers more quickly in dogs,” Wouda said. “The benefit of a particular therapy becomes evident in dogs more rapidly compared to people, and because of this we can preserve research and development finances, but more importantly, we save valuable time and resources.”

Animal clinical trials are structured similarly to human clinical trials and are tightly regulated and overseen. Wouda works with Mary Lynn Higginbotham, associate professor of clinical sciences, their graduate students and oncology technicians as well as the Veterinary Health Center’s referring veterinarians to conduct these clinical trials. They also collaborate with human medical researchers to discuss how the research can best be applied in the field of human oncology.

“For many pet owners, cancer is a terminal diagnosis for their beloved family member,” Wouda said. “These studies provide owners an opportunity to trial a cutting-edge therapy for their pets at a reasonable price. Moreover, owners participating in these clinical trials take comfort and are pleased to know that they are helping to achieve better treatments and outcomes for pets that may be diagnosed with cancer in the future.”

Source:  Kansas State University

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Canine circovirus

Circoviruses are small viruses that survive well in the environment once shed from affected animals.  There’s a canine circovirus that was first detected in the USA in 2012, but there’s still a lot to learn.

Dogs infected with circovirus may show symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and even death.

“Last year in Ohio and California, some dogs died of diarrhea and they couldn’t figure out the causing agent because those routine diagnostics could not pick up any pathogens that are potentially causing the diarrhea deaths,” researcher Jianfa Bai said.  Bai is a molecular diagnostician and assistant professor at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Kansas State Diagnostic Laboratory has recently developed tests to identify circovirus. Researchers are still unsure how deadly this disease is. While some dogs show symptoms, 3 to 11 percent of the dogs tested at the diagnostic laboratory have been confirmed as carrying the pathogen — but are healthy and do not show symptoms.

Bai says they can’t rule out that circovirus is causing deaths. It is also possible that the deaths are caused by a combination of circovirus and another disease.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends that your dog is checked by a veterinarian if they are vomiting or have diarrhea.  Your vet can contact the laboratory at 866-512-5650 if they want to submit samples for testing.

Source:  Kansas State University media release

Emerging strains of canine parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious worldwide disease that involves both domestic and wild canines. It can be fatal in immuno-compromised dogs or puppies that have not been vaccinated.

Photo courtesy of Kansas State University

Photo courtesy of Kansas State University

The molecular diagnostics team led by Richard Oberst, Professor of diagnostic medicine, at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Kansas State University has developed a newer, more effective test that can detect an emerging 2c strain of the virus while also detecting the existing 2a and 2b strains.

“Canine parvovirus is a very severe disease,” Oberst said. “Usually dogs who have canine parvovirus are already immune suppressed, not only because of their young age and having immature immune systems, but also because of having intestinal parasites.”

Canine parvovirus causes hemorrhagic enteritis resulting in bloody diarrhea several days after exposure to the virus. It spreads from dog to dog through contact with feces. The virus infects lymphocytes and causes immune suppression and it also can cause dogs to bleed to death through their intestines.

Often, survival rates depend on how quickly and accurately the virus is detected. Commercial tests for veterinarians are not as effective at detecting newer strains of the 2c virus, Oberst said, and have resulted in some false negative results.

The team has developed a real-time polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test to detect the 2c virus strain and the 2a and 2b strains. “With this test we can now test all strains simultaneously and differentiate which strains of the virus might actually be causing the infection,” Oberst said. “That’s a unique aspect to this test.”

To send samples for testing at the diagnostic laboratory, dog owners are encouraged to work with their veterinarians, who can send samples to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Kansas State University.

Source:  Kansas State University media release

Developing methods in pain management and osteoarthritis

Researchers at Kansas State University are devoting their time to the study of improvements in pain management and the treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs.   (For more information on pain management, see my June 2012 blog)

The projects are led by James Roush, a professor of clinical sciences.

In one study, the research team determined that the maximum effective time for using hot and cold packs for pain management is 10 minutes.   The researchers studied how packing affects tissue temperature in beagles and beagle-sized dogs after surgery because hot and cold packing is a common technique for reducing swelling.   After 10 minutes, the maximum change in tissue temperature has been reached.

In another study, a special mat is being used to study lameness in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis.  When dogs step on the mat, it measures the pressure in their step and the study team can determine in which leg the lameness is worse.

“We’ve designed the study to help improve osteoarthritis treatment,” Roush said. “We will also use it to measure clinical patients when they come in for regular checkups. We can measure their recovery and a variety of other aspects: how they respond to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, how they respond to narcotics or how they respond to a surgical procedure that is designed to take that pressure off the joint.”

And in a third study,  Roush is collaborating with researchers to study the effectiveness of a painkiller used to treat dogs to identify potential alternatives.

“To achieve the drug’s effect, the dosage in dogs is much higher than in people,” Roush said. “It also may not be a very good analgesic in dogs. We want to see if there is an alternative that requires smaller doses and does not have not as much of a discrepancy for patients.”

Source:  Kansas State University media release