From Bench to Bedside: Dr. Nicola Mason and Her Research


Dr. Nicola Mason, B.Vet.Med, PhD, is a veterinarian, professor, principal investigator, but above all an animal lover. Her goal is to bring her cutting-edge research to your pet,from bench to bedside. Her research in immunotherapy has opened many new options for treating previously difficult diseases like cancer, to make sure your furry friend has a better life by your side.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in senior dogs—and the Mason Immunotherapy Research Laboratory is at the leading edge of new technologies in treatment for a myriad of types. Canine cancer, like cancer in humans, has long been treated with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. But as new methods have proliferated in humans, the parallel developments haven’t always happened in animals.

The Mason Immunotherapy Research Laboratory specializes in canine immunotherapy, training an animal’s own immune system to target its cancers, using techniques and technologies pioneered at Penn Medicine for use in humans. Compared to more traditional techniques, such as radiation or chemotherapy, immunotherapy can have fewer side effects, and be effective in targeting different cancer types.  And beyond bringing these modalities into the vet world, the research being done in the lab also provides valuable insight in the other direction, for treatments that may one day be used to help humans, too.

The Mason Immunotherapy Research Laboratory currently focuses primarily on genetically engineering chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells to redirect and fight tumors, where T cells (part of the body’s natural defense system) are modified to be able to identify cancer cells they might otherwise miss, and begin to fight the growths, techniques work particularly well for B-cell malignancies—which are the most common type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in the USA.The Mason Immunotherapy Research Laboratory investigates canine version of hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, osteosarcoma, and Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), and you can read more about current research and trials in the novel therapies and clinical trials page.