Dogs needed for Colorado State University canine cancer prevention vaccine study

Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center clinical trials technician Danielle Biggs and medical oncologist Dr. Doug Thamm examine Goblin, April 19, 2019. (Colorado State University)

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Colorado State University is looking for dogs to participate in trials for a vaccine that could prevent canine cancer, and could lead to a similar trial for humans.

As Colorado State University leads the clinical trials for the vaccine, the university is looking for 800 healthy, middle-aged pet dogs to be tested, according to a news release from the university.

Douglas Thamm, the director of clinical research at the Flint Animal Cancer Center at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University, will lead the clinical trials portion of the study, which, according to the release, is the largest interventional canine clinical trial ever conducted. The vaccine, if it works, would block a wide variety of cancers, rather than targeting one type.

“As one of the top animal cancer centers in the world, CSU and our team is in an excellent position to lead this new clinical trial,” Thamm said in the release. “We look forward to contributing to this groundbreaking research study.”

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California, Davis will also be recruiting patients for the study.

Dogs participating in the study must live with their owners within 150 miles of the trial sites and must meet the following qualifications:

  • Dogs must be between 6 and 10 years old,
  • Weigh at least 12 pounds,
  • Have no history of previous cancer or autoimmune disease,
  • Have no significant illnesses that could result in a life span fewer than five years,
  • Not be on a current treatment with oral or injectable immunosuppressive medications,
  • Be one of 45 breeds, listed on the trial’s website.

Dogs that meet the criteria will be randomly chosen to receive the vaccine or placebo and will need to go to the study site for semiannual check-ups for five years. Owners whose dogs develop cancer during the trial will get hospital credit for the diagnosis and treatment of the cancer.

The vaccine was developed by Stephen Johnston, a professor and director of the Center for Innovations in Medicine, part of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, and his team.

Thamm said he was skeptical about the vaccine at first, but now has hopes it could lead to similar cancer prevention studies for humans as well.

“Testing this approach in dogs will serve as the perfect bridge to human studies,” Thamm said in the release. “Additionally, if it is successful, we will have a new tool for cancer prevention in our pets, potentially decades before it is available for humans.”

The project is funded through a $6.4 million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project, which was awarded to Johnston in 2018.

For more information, visit the program’s website.

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