Minnesota veterinary college lands funding for canine cancer trials

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Aug 06, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
St. Paul, Minn. -- An experimental procedure to treat a dog with brain cancer that remains successful a year later has earned the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine funding to treat more dogs through clinical trials.

The treatment that saved a 10-year-old German Shepherd mix named Batman involved a three-pronged regimen of surgical removal of a glioma brain tumor, treatment of the surgical site with gene therapy used to attract immune cells and destroy any remaining tumor cells, and the administration of an anti-cancer vaccine made from Batman’s own cancer cells to prevent recurrence.

"This type of therapy has the potential to be used on nearly any type of systemic cancer in dogs, not just brain cancer, because the immune response covers the entire body," says Dr. G. Elizabeth Pluhar, DVM, PhD. "I'm hopeful this therapy may in time be used for other types of systemic cancer in dogs."

Pluhar is a veterinary surgeon at the college and developed the treatment with Dr. John Olfest, PhD., head of the neurosurgery gene-therapy program at the Masonic Cancer Center.

Their research has secured funding to treat 50 more dogs, but the college says the hope is that there soon will be openings in the clinical trials for more than 100. Eligible dogs are those with primary brain tumors, including the aggressive and relatively common gliomas, like Batman’s. The program will cover most of the costs of treatment, including surgery and supportive care while a dog is enrolled in one of the trials. Without funding, treatment costs could reach $20,000 per dog, according to the college.

See more information about the clinical trials here. To inquire about enrolling a dog, call Kelly Noyes, small-surgery case manager, at (612) 624-7441.