Comparative Immunotherapy Program

Our Mission

To leverage comparative medicine, to understand immune mechanisms of disease, create innovative immunotherapies in areas of unmet need and in doing so improve the lives of both animals and humans. 

Our Vision

To foster cross-disciplinary collaborations and facilitate translational research in comparative immunology across departments, schools, and institutions to accelerate the implementation of cutting edge immunotherapies for companion animals and humans. 

What is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapies can be used to treat different diseases either by activating the immune system or suppressing it. Diseases such as cancer and infection can be treated by activating the immune system, enhancing its ability to eliminate cancerous cells or pathogens. Conversely, autoimmunity, inflammation and organ rejection after transplant can be treated or prevented by suppressing the immune system. There are different types of immunotherapies that affect the immune system in different ways, and these are described below.

cell therapies chart

  • Cellular therapies

    These therapies use immune cells, most commonly white blood cells known as T cells, NK cells or iNKT cells, that are most commonly isolated from the patient, genetically engineered outside the body to augment their specificity and function and then re-administered to the patient. These cells are most commonly used in the treatment of cancer. Other cell types such as regulatory or suppressor T cells are being explored for their ability to suppress the immune response in situations of organ transplantation or in cases of an over-exuberant immune response such as excessive inflammation or auto-immunity. Cell collection (apheresis) from canine patients for cellular therapies is performed by our extracorporeal therapy team.

  • Checkpoint inhibitors

    Monoclonal antibodies that block inhibitory checkpoint signals in T cells are known as checkpoint inhibitors. These antibodies through their mechanism of action augment immune responses and have led to significant, durable clinical responses in human patients with cancer. They are also being explored for their ability to augment immune responses against infectious disease such as malaria and HIV.

  • Cytokine therapies

    Cytokines are proteins used by the immune system to communicate between cells and orchestrate immune responses. Cytokine therapy can be used to augment anti-tumor immune responses. Engineering of cellular components such as T cells to secrete cytokines upon activation is a promising strategy being used to increase anti-tumor responses in patients with solid tumors.

  • Monoclonal antibodies

    Antibodies are proteins that specific target molecules on the surface of host cells, (including canine, feline, and human cells) as well as bacteria, parasites, and fungi. Monoclonal antibodies are amongst the most successful category of immunotherapies and are being actively developed for veterinary patients with diseases such as cancer, infectious disease, and inflammatory disease. Checkpoint inhibitors are most commonly monoclonal antibodies.

  • Non-specific immune modulators

    Non-specific immune modulators include BCG, IL-2 and STING agonists are used to enhance a non-specific immune response against cancers and/or infectious disease.

  • Oncolytic viruses

    Oncolytic viruses are being explored for the treatment of cancer. These viruses aim to primarily infect tumor cells and lead to tumor destruction. Tumor destruction may then expose the immune system to cancer antigens and boost further immune responses.

  • Vaccines

    Vaccines are used to stimulate the immune system to recognize and attach invading pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasites. They are also used to stimulate the immune system to fight against cancer cells. A vaccine exposes the immune system to an antigen, which prompts an immune response. This helps the immune system recognize cancer cells as foreign so it can destroy them. Vaccines can be used to both prevent and treat disease.

Clinical Trials

A dog being having it's ear examined.

Through our research into comparative immunology and immunotherapy we aim to offer our canine companions the best possible care, while also contributing to the advancement of veterinary science for the benefit of all dogs and their human counterparts.

If you are interested in a clinical trial for your pet, please learn more about them and how to participate.

Contact Us

Please reach out to us with any questions or inquiries by sending an email to Allison Ardon, Assistant to the Director at
If you would like to support the work we do here please utilize our Giving website. We look forward to hearing from you!