Dogs with cancer needed for immunotherapy trial

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canine cancer
Some dogs with cancer, like Skinnie Minnie, could benefit from UQ’s new immunotherapy trial. Photo: The University of Queensland

Researchers at The University of Queensland are looking for volunteer pet dogs with a specific cancer diagnosis to test a new treatment.

A clinical trial is aiming to find the best formula for an injectable cancer treatment that works by stimulating the dog’s immune system to wake up and fight the cancer.

The trial is part of UQ veterinarian Dr Matthew Weston’s PhD study, building on an earlier clinical trial that showed up to 40 per cent of dogs benefitted from the therapy as their tumours stopped growing, or reduced in size.

“It was an incredible trial where the tumours disappeared completely in one in five dogs,” Dr Weston said.

“Two pet dogs who were terminally ill and given eight to 12 weeks to live were able to survive for 12 and 17 months respectively on the new treatment.

“It’s proven itself as an effective treatment, and now with the public’s help, we can hopefully make it even better.”

The treatment is injected through the skin into the tumour and researchers will take additional samples to help monitor the dog’s treatment response.

Dogs will receive between one and three injections and must be available for follow-up assessments.

Deputy Head of UQ’s School of Veterinary Science pathologist Associate Professor Rachel Allavena said the researchers were seeking dogs with a confirmed cancer diagnosis from their regular veterinarian.

“We’re looking for South East Queensland dogs who have melanoma, mast cell tumours or other cancers which can be injected from the skin’s surface for the trial,” Dr Allavena said.

“Dogs who have failed regular treatments or whose treatment didn’t work are of particular interest to the research group.

“With the help of these volunteer dogs and their families, we’re hoping to develop a treatment that can be cheaply and easily administered to dogs to help them fight cancer.”

The clinical trial is being funded by the international dog cancer charity Canine Cancer Research Alliance (CCRA), based in the United States.

“It’s fantastic that this generous charitable donation has allowed us to undertake this cutting-edge research in Australia,” Dr Allavena said.

“Without the support of organisations like CCRA, and the dog lovers that donate to them, it would be very difficult to undertake a clinical trial like this in Australia.”

The trial is now open and will run until around October 2021.

For more information or to participate in the trial, contact Dr Matthew Weston at matthew.weston@uq.net.au.

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