Tag Archives: oncology

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

Advertisements

Dog sledding is an adventure for kids with cancer

A young cancer patient on the dog sled Credit: Emmanuelle Compte

A young cancer patient on the dog sled Credit: Emmanuelle Compte

A team of sled dogs racing through the snowy forests of northern Canada conjures up the timeless spirit of exploration. But the intrepid youths on the sleds may not be exactly what you’re picturing – they’re young girls and boys with cancer.

A common perception of the paediatric cancer patient is of a frail youth whose childhood experiences are tragically curtailed by the disease. Now, the results of a new preliminary study published in ecancermedicalscience show that children with cancer may benefit from a different kind of treatment – a healthy dose of adventure.

The study follows eleven children aged 10-18 years, and five chaperones including doctors and nurses, on an expedition organised by the French non-profit Sourire à la Vie, which supports the use of adapted physical activity for young cancer patients.

“What I learned from this study is that we doctors have the false belief that kids with cancer cannot practice sport because they are too tired or weak from their treatments,” says corresponding author of the study, Dr Nicolas André. He’s a paediatric oncologist at the Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Marseille, France.

“These perceptions are at least partly wrong,” Dr André says. “Adapted physical activities can be performed by most children with cancer even during their treatment, and can bring a lot to children.”

All of the eleven children received adapted physical training and exercises before the expedition. The children successfully completed the programme without harm – and they demonstrated statistically significant improvement in both physical and psychological health.

The children participated in other activities, such as snow exercises, as well as caring for the sled dogs.

“One of the main reasons why we chose dog sledding was to create a unique sportive experience based on change of scenery and building a strong relationship with animals,” explains study author Frédéric Sotteau, founder of Sourire à la Vie.

The health and safety of the children was of paramount concern, Sotteau says. “We did not compromise regarding security, so we carefully prepared the expedition hand-in-hand with Canadian associations and doctors.”

“Based on our work over the last eight years, we all are convinced that practicing adapted physical activity is very positive for children with cancer,” comments study author Professor Laurent Grélot, a researcher at Aix Marseille University, France. “It avoids cardiovascular and muscular deconditioning, can decrease treatment induced fatigue, and can help maintaining social integration.”

“It is now time to demonstrate these results.”

Based on the success of this study, the researchers have collected enough funding to initiate a randomised trial to evaluate the benefits of adapted physical activities for children with cancer. But perhaps the best take-home message comes from the children themselves.

“Before my cancer diagnosis, I used to do a lot of sport, but then I lost self-confidence and my body was not able to cope with physical efforts,” says Merwan, an 18-year-old patient. “This trip in Canada transformed me. I am in shape again, and now I know I am able to practice sport again.”

“I have been dog sledding for 6 hours a day,” adds Nell, a 12-year-old patient. “I am very proud, and I feel so good now.”

Source:  AlphaGalileo media release

Drug trials in pet dogs with cancer

Physiological similarities between dogs and humans, and conserved genetics between some dog and human cancers, can allow pet dogs to serve as useful models for studying new cancer drugs, says Dr Timothy Fan of the University of Illinois.

Timothy Fan, professor of veterinary clinical medicine. With his personal dog, Ember

Timothy Fan, professor of veterinary clinical medicine. With his personal dog, Ember  photo by L. Brian Stauffer

In a meeting sponsored by the National Cancer Policy Forum of the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., Fan and 15 other experts in the field described the benefits of using pet dogs with naturally occurring (rather than laboratory-induced) tumors in early cancer drug trials.

“We have a lot of dogs in the United States, approximately 70 million of them, and it’s believed that about 25 percent of pet dogs will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime,” he said. “We’re using dogs to help guide drug development for people, but at the same time we’re offering new, innovative therapies that would otherwise never be available to dogs, to help them as well.”

Several attributes make pet dogs attractive subjects for such studies, Fan said.

“Dogs tend to develop cancer as a geriatric population, just like people,” he said. “Because the tumors develop spontaneously, there is heterogeneity in that tumor population, as a human being would have. The size of the tumors and the speed of growth of those tumors are comparable in dogs and human beings. So there are many attributes of a dog that develops cancer spontaneously that recapitulate the biology that we see in people.”

Some studies have already begun using dogs to test new cancer therapies. Starting in 2007, for example, Fan began testing an anti-cancer drug called PAC-1  in pet dogs with naturally occurring lymphomas and osteosarcomas. The results in dogs allowed the scientists to advance PAC-1 as a potential therapy against human cancers. The drug is now in phase I human clinic trials.

“Another example in which dogs have been important in demonstrating drug activity was an anti-cancer compound produced by the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences,” he said. “The company produced a pro-drug, which must be activated by a naturally occurring enzyme in human leukocytes before it can become effective. Mice and rats lack this enzyme, but dogs have it, so the compound was tested in dogs.”

There also are limitations to the use of pet dogs in cancer drug trials.

“There are some tumors that will not be that relevant,” Fan said. “Colon cancer, for example, is heavily driven by diet, and we don’t see much colon cancer in dogs. So pet dogs might not be a suitable model for colon cancer in humans.”

“There is heterogeneity in the human population and in dogs. So I would argue that if your drug agent produces positive results in dogs, that would give me greater confidence that those findings would be translatable to people.”

Source:  University of Illinois media release

Pet Cancer Awareness Month

Did you know that 1 out of every 4 dogs develops cancer?

Cancer is a devastating  diagnosis which many owners will face (and I speak from personal experience; I’ve loved and lost 2 dogs to cancer plus provided palliative care support to other dogs diagnosed with the disease).

The month of May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month.

Like humans, dogs are subject to a higher cancer risk because of genetic and lifestyle factors.  Good nutrition, exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight are as good for our dogs as they are for us!

In this video, Dr Gerald Post of the Veterinary Oncology Center in Connecticut talks about prevention, early indicators of cancer, and diagnostic tests.

There is a growing body of research into canine cancers and new treatments are being developed and tested.  This means that treatments such as chemotherapy exist for dogs when previously nothing could be done.

If you type the word ‘cancer’ into the search box on this blog, you will see a number of articles about dogs and cancer.  I regularly read new articles about cancer and treatments because I’m interested in the subject and I want to offer my customers the best possible advice and support when working with their veterinarian and others in their dog’s healthcare team.

Please feel free to share your canine cancer story by posting to this blog – so that others can learn from your experience.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

A biological trigger for canine bone cancer?

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine have identified the biological mechanism that may give some cancer cells the ability to form tumors in dogs.

Yurtie, a canine cancer patient, in the UW Veterinary Care oncology ward.  Photo: Nik Hawkins

Yurtie, a canine cancer patient, in the UW Veterinary Care oncology ward.
Photo: Nik Hawkins

The recent study uncovered an association between the increased expression of a particular gene in tumor cells and more aggressive behavior in a form of canine bone cancer. It may also have implications for human cancers by detailing a new pathway for tumor formation.

The findings of the research have been published  in the journal Veterinary and Comparative Oncology and may eventually provide oncologists with another target for therapy and improve outcomes for canine patients with the disease.

The researchers examined cell lines generated from dogs with osteosarcoma, a common bone cancer that also affects people, with the intent of uncovering why only some cells generate tumors. After the dogs underwent tumor-removal surgery, cells from the tumors were grown in the lab.

This led to six different cancer cell lines, which were then transplanted into mice. The researchers then looked to see which lines developed tumors and which did not and studied the differences between them.

“We found several hundred genes that expressed differently between the tumor-forming and nontumor-forming cell lines,” said Timothy Stein, an assistant professor of oncology. However, one protein called frizzled-6 was present at levels eight times higher in cells that formed tumors.

“It’s exciting because it’s kind of uncharted territory,” says Stein “While we need more research to know for sure, it’s possible that frizzled-6 expression may be inhibiting a particular signaling pathway and contributing to the formation of tumor-initiating cells.”

The team’s genetic research will continue on dogs and be extended to humans.

Source:  University of Wisconsin-Madison media release

Pet therapy and how it helps cancer patients

Therapy dogs may improve the emotional well-being of some cancer patients, according to results of a clinical study, the first to document the benefits of animal-assisted therapy in adult cancer patients. The research was published this month in the Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology.

The results show a significant improvement in quality of life for more than 40 patients who took part in a trial at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City, where they interacted with therapy dogs following chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Photo courtesy of The Good Dog Foundation

Photo courtesy of The Good Dog Foundation

The study, conducted by researchers at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, found that patients receiving intensive multi-modal radiation therapy and chemotherapy for gastrointestinal, head or neck cancers experienced increases in emotional well-being and quality of life when they received visits from a certified therapy dog during the course of their treatment.

Increases in emotional well-being were significant over the course of the animal-assisted visits, even as patients underwent marked and significant declines in both physical and functional well-being.

“This study is the first such definitive study in cancer, and it highlights the merits of animal- assisted visits using the same scientific standards as we hold for the cancer treatment itself. It shows the importance of an innovative environmental intervention during cancer treatment,” said Stewart B. Fleishman, MD, principal investigator and Founding Director of Cancer Supportive Services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “Having an animal-assisted visit significantly improved their quality of life and ‘humanized’ a high-tech treatment,” he said. “Patients said they would have stopped their treatments before completion, except for the presence of the certified Good Dog Foundation therapy dog and volunteer handler.”

“Thanks to this rigorously designed study, we now have strong evidence that pet therapy is an effective tool to help cancer patients get through challenging treatments,” said Gabriel A. Sara, MD, Medical Director, Infusion Suite at Mount Sinai Roosevelt, and Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The study has been called another piece of ‘mounting evidence’ of how the human-animal bond can enhance emotional and physical health.

If you would like to pass on the journal article to your oncologist/hospital provider,  you can access it here.

Source:  EurekAlert! media release