Sasha, first dog to receive cancer vaccineDr. Nicola Mason, associate professor of veterinary medicine in collaboration with Advaxis Inc. is currently evaluating the first vaccine for canine osteosarcoma. This approach harnesses the power of the dog’s immune system, “training” it to seek out and destroy cancer cells that remain after amputation and Sashachemotherapy. In a phase I clinical trial, dogs are being recruited to determine the safety and efficacy of a genetically modified Listeria vaccine to prolong survival.

Sasha was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a highly aggressive bone cancer in March of 2012. The prognosis for this disease is guarded at best and dogs that undergo amputation followed by chemotherapy, the standard of care for this disease, have a median survival of only 1 year. Most dogs die as a result of cancer metastases (spread) to their lungs or other bones. Sasha finally succumbed to this disease in March 2014, adding another year to her life than expected.

Sasha was the first of six dogs that have received the experimental vaccine so far. All dogs tolerated the vaccine well with no significant short or long-term side effects.

“Although it is too early yet to determine whether the vaccine prolongs overall survival in patients with this highly aggressive disease, we can conclude that the vaccine appears to be safe and well tolerated. This is a very important first step,” Mason says. “Given the safety of the vaccine at the current doses used, we are extending the study and continuing to enroll patients.”

Sasha was the first dog to receive this cancer vaccine. You can read about Sasha on a blog written by her owners Carlos and Liliana Ruano.