Canine cancer draws research efforts from human, veterinary sides

Canine cancer draws research efforts from human, veterinary sides

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Sep 01, 2011

CORVALLIS, ORE. — Canine cancer is presenting new opportunities for veterinary and medical researchers to develop new treatment strategies.

Specifically, two universities launched a collaborative canine cancer project at Corvallis-based Oregon State University (OSU) and Portland-based Oregon Health & Sciences University. They are aiming to blend customized chemotherapy and surgery for the treatment of canine cancer. These combined efforts mark the first such endeavor of its kind, according to the universities. Part of the project involved a 9-year-old Golden Retriever that was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and was brought to OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine.

There, Stuart Helfand, DVM, a professor of veterinary medicine, cultured the dog's cancer cells and experimented with a few new drugs to see their effects on the cells.

The dog was being treated for the unique characteristics of its tumor. The customized treatment approach is an evolving method, he says.

In addition to his work on this hemangiosarcoma case, Helfand is collaborating with Bernard Séguin, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, a surgeon and an assistant professor of veterinary medicine, on treating canine osteosarcoma. Seguin spoke with DVM Newsmagazine on his work with Helfand and their joint efforts with human medicine.

"In our research on osteosarcoma, the dog is an excellent model to understand and study what goes on in humans. Whatever gains we make in dogs can be really helpful to explain what goes on in children," Séguin explains.

"The great value of working together is the access it provides us to resources that would otherwise be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to access. For one, funding on the human side is so much greater than on the veterinary side. It would be very difficult for us to think we could achieve the same level of research just from a financial aspect," Séguin says.

"Also, what is even more exciting is the synergy between the two teams. We can come together and develop protocols, while each bringing our own perspective to the table," he adds.

Some of the cancer research being conducted by Helfand, Séguin and colleagues is based on analyzing compounds called tyrosine kinase inhibitors. The veterinary experts are working with researchers on the human side who worked to develop the first tyrosine kinase inhibitor, which influenced the course of treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia in people a decade ago. The goal is to investigate how other TKIs may help treat hemangiosarcoma in dogs.