Results offer hope to human cancer patients

[June 2, 2014; Philadelphia, PA] – Sixty percent of dogs with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer, die within one year of diagnosis. But thanks to groundbreaking cancer immunotherapy trials, Dr. Nicola Mason of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) has helped to prevent metastatic disease and prolong overall survival of dogs suffering with this devastating disease. Because there is a marked similarity at the molecular level in tumors of dogs and humans, the results of these clinical trials offer hope to humans with cancer, including children with osteosarcoma and women with breast cancer.  

Dr. Nicola Mason with ShebaDr. Mason is currently recruiting patients for a new trial for dogs with early osteosarcoma that have not undergone limb amputation. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether vaccination with a tumor-targeting cancer vaccine, combined with radiation therapy, can decrease bone cancer pain and prolong overall survival in dogs with osteosarcoma. By harnessing the power of the immune system, Dr. Mason hopes to be able to specifically target and kill malignant cells. This may translate into decreased bone pain and increased overall survival in dogs that have not undergone amputation for the treatment of osteosarcoma. Pet owners interested in enrolling a dog in this study should contact Dr. Mason at nmason@vet.upenn.edu or 215-898-3996. Eligibility and trial details can be found here.

Denali, a 10-year-old Italian Spinone, was the first dog enrolled in this trial. Denali suffered a fracture of his right front humerus due to an osteosarcoma tumor. Since early January, he has received a vaccine every three weeks. His most recent radiographs and tests reveal that the cancer has not spread to the lungs or lymphatic system, and that his pathological fracture has since healed. Denali’s quality of life has been very good while receiving the vaccines. He walks 16 blocks a day, runs on the beach, and is back to work as a therapy dog in Brooklyn, NY.

In addition to Denali’s promising results, Dr. Mason has had remarkable success treating osteosarcoma in dogs that have undergone amputation and chemotherapy. Of the first five dogs vaccinated in a previous clinical trial, four have survived over two years since diagnosis and three of these dogs remain completely tumor-free. For more information, visit www.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers-initiatives/canine-cancer-studies.

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.