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Penn Vet’s Dr. Nicola “Nicky” Mason Appears on 60 Minutes

By: Martin J. Hackett | | 215-898-1475 Date: Nov 28, 2022
Photo of Dr. Nicola Mason interviewed by Anderson Cooper
Dr. Nicola Mason and Anderson Cooper

[November 28, 2022; Philadelphia, PA] – Nicola J. Mason, BVetMed, PhD, DACVIM (Internal Medicine), FCPP, MRCVS, of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn Vet), was interviewed by 60 Minutes Correspondent and CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper. The interview, which aired on Sunday, November 27th, highlighted Mason’s role in leading the now completed clinical trials that evaluated a novel Listeria-based vaccine for its ability to improve the longevity and quality of life for client-owned dogs with osteosarcoma, a common canine bone cancer. The conversation was part of a larger segment that emphasized the growing recognition of the value of comparative medicine.

“We share many of the same genes with our canine companions. And for cancer research, that is an opportunity that scientists are trying to make the most of. It is called comparative oncology,” said Cooper. “Now funded in part by the White House's Cancer Moonshot Initiative, doctors and scientists are studying naturally developing cancers, mostly in dogs, and using what they learn to speed potential treatments to them and us.”

Mason and Cooper explored the role of dogs with spontaneous osteosarcoma as a parallel patient population in which to evaluate novel immunotherapies to inform human clinical trials. Many of the cancers that naturally develop in dogs share important clinical, biological, and genetic features to those that develop in humans, making the dog a relevant, immune competent ‘model’ to accelerate the discovery of safe and effective treatments for both humans and dogs with cancer.

“What we're trying to do is find a better way to determine which are the best treatments to take forward into humans,” said Mason. “We are very similar [to dogs]. I think more so than we might like to admit.”

Mason’s immunotherapy treatment consisted of a highly weakened form of the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, which was genetically engineered to express the HER2/neu molecule. The vaccine stimulated an immune response that killed cancer cells that remained after traditional standard-of-care therapy (primary tumor removal through limb sparing surgery, or amputation, and follow-up chemotherapy).

The initial pilot study, which saw the first dog treated at Penn Vet in 2012, treated 18 client-owned dogs with the vaccine and demonstrated that those who received the vaccine lived more than two times longer than the reported survival times of dogs who did not receive the vaccine. Eight years later, in 2018, Mason and researchers from 11 other U.S. university-based veterinary centers, launched a larger, second trial that evaluated the immune response and overall survival of immunized dogs. The results of this study are pending publication.

Mason, who is a board-certified veterinary internist and immunologist, is The Paul A. James and Charles A. Gilmore Endowed Chair Professor, and Professor of Medicine and Pathobiology. For the past 14 years, she has been actively involved in evaluating the immunological responses of immune-based therapies in client-owned dogs suffering from lymphoma, osteosarcoma, and hemangiosarcoma.

The initial study was coordinated through Penn Vet's Veterinary Clinical Investigations Center (VCIC), the School’s clinical research organization that supports the design, coordination, and implementation of veterinary clinical trials designed to identify novel approaches to disease diagnosis, management, and prevention. The VCIC is currently recruiting for more than three dozen clinical trials in all veterinary specialties, including 16 for naturally occurring cancers. To learn more about these trials, eligibility, and how you can enroll, please visit:, or call 215.573.0302, or by email at

See the full 60 Minutes interview here