UQ vets help dogs with cancer

dogs with cancer
Study subject Gus (left), a nine-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback cross with his sisters.

An innovative Australian pilot study for dogs with cancer has achieved some positive results.

The study of cancer treatments is being conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Veterinary Science in conjunction with colleagues at the Australian National University and the University of Sydney.

One treatment involved directly injecting immunotherapies into the dogs’ tumours “to ‘wake up’ the immune system so it recognises the foreign cancer and starts to destroy it”, UQ senior pathologist Associate Professor Rachel Allavena said.

This resulted in 20 per cent of the dogs being cured of their cancer. For some of the other dogs, expected survival time was extended, from eight weeks to 12 months in one case, and 17 months in another.

Dr Allavena said the team was also trialling a vaccine made by extracting proteins from the dog’s own cancer, customising it for each canine patient.

“In dogs which respond to the vaccine, the cancer melts away or stops growing,” she said.

Dr Allavena said canine cancers had similar appearance, behaviour, genetics and environmental causes to human cancers, so the study effectively advances both human and canine medicine.

“Cancer is common in our pet dogs, and certain breeds are very prone to specific cancers, creating a powerful research opportunity,” she said.

“The new treatments have cured pets and provided safety and efficacy data for ongoing human clinical trials.”

Dr Allavena’s research group studies several major common and devastating cancers in pet dogs—mast cell tumour, lymphoma, melanoma and carcinomas.​

Owners of dogs that may benefit from participating in the trial can contact Dr Annika Oksa Walker by email on a.oksawalker@uq.edu.au.


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