[November 1, 2013; Philadelphia, PA] – Cancer is the number-one disease-related killer of dogs and cats, claiming millions of pets each year. Through groundbreaking cancer research and a new Comprehensive Cancer Care program, Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital is dedicated to improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer in animals.

Penn Vet, Comprehensive Cancer CareThrough a fruitful partnership with Penn Vet’s Veterinary Clinical Investigations Center, Ryan Hospital offers novel therapies that may offer cancer patients – canine and human alike – a viable alternative or complementary treatment to traditional therapies.

In addition, Penn Vet is a member of the Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium, which is run by the National Cancer 

Institute and provides access to a wide range of new cancer drugs in the early stages of testing.

Some of Penn Vet’s innovative cancer research and clinical offerings are:

Cancer Vaccines

It has been 16 months since the first dog diagnosed with spontaneous osteosarcoma received a new bone-cancer vaccine at Penn Vet from Dr. Nicola Mason, the lead investigator on the trial. The vaccine is being administered to dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive tumor that affects the long bones of large- and giant-breed dogs. Dogs have traveled to Penn Vet from Ohio, Florida, Louisiana, and Montana to receive this novel therapy.

Despite limb amputation and chemotherapy, 60% of dogs with osteosarcoma die within one year of diagnosis. The aim of the vaccine, given to dogs after amputation and chemotherapy, is to prevent metastatic disease and prolong overall survival. Of the first five dogs vaccinated in this clinical trial, four are still alive, having survived between 500 and 590 days, and three dogs are tumor-free. These results suggest that the vaccine stimulates an effective anti-tumor immune response that can kill microscopic metastatic cells and prevent tumor recurrence. Additionally, there have been no long- or short-term complications observed with the vaccine. Given these highly promising results, Penn Vet is collaborating with Colorado State University and the University of Florida on a Phase II clinical trial. 

These findings may change the paradigm of canine osteosarcoma treatment and provide essential data to advance this approach in humans, including children with osteosarcoma and adults with a variety of different tumor pathologies, including mammary carcinoma.

Mushroom Compound

The Coriolus versicolor mushroom, known commonly as the Yunzhi mushroom, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. A compound in the mushroom called polysaccharopeptide, or PSP, is believed to have immune-boosting properties. In the last two decades, some studies have suggested that PSP also has a tumor-fighting effect. 

At Penn Vet, Dr. Dottie Brown’s work with I’m-Yunity, a formulation of PSP that has been tested for consistency and good manufacturing processes, resulted in some of the longest survival rates ever reported for dogs with hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive, invasive cancer that arises from the blood cells and typically affects the spleen. Before this study was conducted, the longest reported median survival time of dogs with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen that did not undergo further treatment was 86 days. Dogs enrolled in Penn Vet’s trial lived beyond a year with nothing other than the mushroom compound as treatment.

Penn Vet researchers are currently pursuing further trials to confirm and refine these results. One trial will compare I’m-Yunity to a placebo for owners who opt not to pursue chemotherapy in their pet, and another will compare the compound to standard-of-care chemotherapy. Depending on those results, veterinarians could eventually prescribe the compound for treating hemangiosarcoma, and perhaps other cancers, in dogs. The company that manufacturers I’m-Yunity may also pursue large-scale clinical trials in humans.

Shelter Canine Mammary Tumor Program

The goal of the Penn Vet Shelter Canine Mammary Tumor Program is to advance knowledge of breast cancer in both dogs and humans. Led by Dr. Karin Sorenmo, the program provides care to shelter dogs with mammary tumors that are homeless and without access to the care they need to survive. Penn Vet covers surgery and follow-up care costs and helps facilitate adoption. 

Mammary tumors in dogs and breast cancer in women have many similarities, both in terms of risk factors and biology. Shelter dogs provide an ideal population for studying mammary tumors because only 10 percent of animals received into shelters have been spayed or neutered. The incidence of mammary tumors in unspayed female dogs is at least four times greater than in spayed dogs. In addition, many of the dogs have multiple tumors, often in different stages of malignant transformation, and therefore provide a unique opportunity to study cancer progression.

Cancer Imaging Systems

Penn Vet’s Dr. David Holt has partnered with Penn Medicine to improve detection of surgical margins at the time of surgery to remove soft tissue sarcomas. Dr. Holt currently offers a surgery using dye and special imaging equipment to Ryan Hospital patients. This technique is vital in both veterinary and human surgical oncology to ensure that the entire tumor is resected.

Comprehensive Cancer Care

Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital is changing the face of cancer medicine with a Comprehensive Cancer Care program – a multidisciplinary approach to evaluate and treat cancer patients. Through this program, board-certified specialists in medical, surgical, and radiation oncology collaborate to provide a comprehensive assessment of each patient’s cancer care needs, resulting in better care, more efficient service, and a more complete approach. Ryan Hospital is one of only three veterinary comprehensive cancer care centers in the nation.

Ryan Hospital clients have access to some of the finest medical and radiation oncologists; a top-notch surgery team, including one of the only fellowship-trained surgical oncologists in the area; an interventional radiology specialist; a world-class dentistry and oral surgery team, distinguished by their training in maxillofacial cancer surgery; board-certified nutrition specialists who offer consultations on diet and feeding strategies that may improve quality of life or treatment outcomes; a grief counselor and support group aimed at helping those caring for chronically ill, terminally ill, or aging pets; and some of the most modern facilities and equipment in veterinary medicine – all in one building. To make an appointment, call 215-746-8387.

About Penn Vet

Penn Vet is a global leader in veterinary medicine education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the only veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health Initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, seeing nearly 33,000 patients a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals, treating 33,000 patients each year – 4,100 in the hospital and 29,000 at farms through the Field Service. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.

For more information, visit www.vet.upenn.edu.