Mason Canine Cancer Immunotherapy Research

Dr. Mason with patient Denali

Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 10. Currently, three main types of cancer treatment exist for dogs and cats – surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. These treatments are used either alone or in combination to eliminate cancer cells from the body. Despite these treatments, some cancer cells usually survive leading to disease relapse or progression. Unfortunately, most patients usually die of relapsed, drug-resistant metastatic disease.

Another type of therapy that is rapidly gaining attention in the treatment of cancer in people is immunotherapy. In this therapeutic approach, the patient’s own immune system is used to target and kill cancer cells in the body.

Dr. Nicola Mason B.Vet.Med., PhD, DACVIM (Internal Medicine), associate professor at Penn Vet, runs a translational research laboratory that focuses on ways to train the immune system to recognize and kill cancers in veterinary species.

Most of Dr. Mason’s current work focuses on the use of “cancer vaccines” in dogs with lymphoma or osteosarcoma. The goal of these vaccines is to “kick start” the immune system so that it will recognize cancer cells and kill them.

Furthermore, by using the immune system, it is hoped that such vaccines will stimulate immune “memory,” meaning that if and when the cancer does return, the immune system will recognize the cancer cells again and eliminate them.

Dr. Mason’s work not only helps bring novel effective immunotherapies into the canine cancer clinics but also has important translational relevance for human patients suffering from similar cancers.

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Dr. Nicola Mason, Canine Cancer Studies

Dr. Nicola Mason’s innovative immunotherapeutic approach to treating dogs with cancer uses the patient’s own immune system to target and kill tumor cells.

Learn more about Dr. Mason's research

Dr. Mason's lab currently focuses on immune therapy approaches to treat osteosarcoma and lymphoma. Learn more about her work.

Golden Retriever, Nicola Mason's cancer studies

Lymphoma & Related Trials

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is the most common cancer of the blood in dogs. It is a cancer of white blood cells – known as lymphocytes – and it occurs in lymphoid tissues such as the peripheral lymph nodes, spleen and bone marrow. Dr. Mason’s laboratory is working on two different immunotherapeutic approaches aimed at preventing disease relapse in dogs diagnosed with lymphoma.

Dr. MaloneyHuss and patient

Hemangiosarcoma Trials

Hemangiosarcoma is a common, aggressive cancer that arises from the cells that line blood vessels. The current standard of care is surgical removal of the spleen followed by chemotherapy. Unfortunately despite surgery and chemotherapy, the disease usually spreads and most dogs succumb to their disease within 6-12 months of diagnosis.

The Mason Lab have developed an antibody therapy to delay or prevent the spread of disease after surgery.

Dr. Nicola Mason with Sheba

Osteosarcoma & Related Trials

Osteosarcoma is the most common primary bone tumor found in dogs, and in most cases, it occurs in middle aged to older large and giant breed dogs. The exact cause of osteosarcoma is not known although it is likely that many factors are involved. Increasing evidence suggests that both canine and pediatric osteosarcoma might respond well to immune therapy when used in combination with other treatment modalities.

Dr. Nicola Mason on canine cancer

Mason Cancer Studies in the News

 Dr. Mason's work has been covered extensively in national media. Here are some of the articles about Dr. Mason, as well as patient stories.