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Yale Canine Cancer Vaccine Program Treats Dogs With Cancer

December 02, 2019
by Julie Parry

Has your furry friend been diagnosed with cancer? Are you looking for resources that might be able to help?

Mark Mamula, PhD, professor of medicine (rheumatology) might have an answer. Mamula is running a clinical trial through Yale School of Medicine’s (YSM) Section of Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology to treat canines afflicted with cancer through a therapeutic vaccine. 

Mamula was inspired to start the program from a chance meeting at a cocktail party. The party host was undergoing cancer treatment at the time. At the same time, his furry family member, a golden retriever, also had cancer. The host went on to successfully complete his treatment and go into remission, however, the family pet passed away. Coincidently, this was the time Mamula was completing his cancer vaccine studies in mouse models. The trial was originally initiated with the close collaboration of veterinary oncologist Gerald Post, DVM, MEM, DACVIM, of the Veterinary Care Center in Norwalk, Conn. and professor (adjunct), Department of Comparative Oncology.  

Having lost his own Labrador retriever, Savannah, to cancer, Mamula was particularly motivated to advance therapies in dog cancers.

“Cancers arise in canine patients in virtually an identical manner that cancers grow in humans,” explained Mamula. “Like humans, dogs arrive at the clinic with cancers that occur spontaneously and in various stages of disease. There are really no dog-specific drugs for cancer treatment. We use modified cancer therapies off-label that were designed and developed for humans.”

“The focus of this trial is to activate the dog’s own white blood cells to make antibodies against the tumor. Our early work suggests that these dogs survive longer than those who used conventional chemotherapy. A number of our patients have had their lung metastasis reduced with the use of our treatment. Metastasis, particularly in the lungs of osteosarcoma patients, are one of the central factors that cause morbidity and mortality in both humans and dogs,” he said. Mamula, Research Scientist Hester Doyle, PhD, and Post are presently compiling clinical responses from now over 200 canine patients who have received the vaccine therapy. 

While the work is designed to be translated for human use, Mamula is receiving widespread support from the veterinarian community.  Enrollment in the trial and administration of this therapeutic vaccination can be performed by any licensed veterinary office in the country. 

For more information on the program, visit Yale Canine Cancer Vaccine Program.

Submitted by Julie Parry on December 02, 2019