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ACC Takes Part in National Consortium to Advance Cancer Treatment
In veterinary cancer therapy, companion animals have historically been the beneficiary of studies conducted in humans to improve cancer treatment. Innovative chemotherapy regimes, promising new drugs, radiation protocols, and novel surgical interventions often have been taken from the realm of human medicine and re-purposed for veterinary oncology. But that paradigm may be shifting as cancer researchers and veterinary oncologists look to companion animals to play a greater role in the development of cancer therapies – advancing care not only for animals, but for people, too.
As part of a new comparative-oncology program at the National Cancer Institute, the Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium, veterinarians at veterinary schools across the country are ready to begin drug trials in dogs that may help speed up the development and release of new cancer therapies. The program, set to begin in 2006, will provide structure, coordination and cooperation to enhance cancer therapy trials in canines.
“Dogs entered in these trials will be companion animals that have naturally occurring tumors that have either failed to respond to standard care, or the dogs have tumors for which there is no standard of care,” said Dr. David Vail, an oncologist at the Colorado State University Animal Cancer Center. “We also may have situations where owners cannot provide care for their pets for financial reasons or quality of life issues and the trials will offer them an opportunity for treatment that might otherwise be unavailable.”
Therapies will come from the pharmaceutical industry, from researchers at the National Cancer Institute, as well as from veterinary and medical colleges. Dr. Vail said that before a therapy is introduced to client animals, it will be tested in rodent or primate models, then mathematical formularies will be used to help ensure effective exposures.
“When we participate in a trial, we will first look at tissues to prove that the drug target is there – this is target validation,” said Dr. Vail. “Second, we have many cancer cell lines and we will conduct tests using these cancer cell lines to determine a drug’s viability in treating a particular type of cancer. If all goes well, we’ll then begin a Phase One study to determine safe dose and help us understand frequency of dosing and possible side effects.”
Dr. Vail said that with this information in hand, testing in humans should progress more rapidly and new treatment options for both humans and their companion animals could become available sooner.
“Right now, it takes about 10 years and $800 million to develop a new cancer drug for people,” said Dr. Vail. “By taking advantage of our shared biology and our common environment, we can advance cancer care and do something that is a win/win for both species.”
Researchers and veterinarians at Colorado State are anticipating the first drug trials beginning in early 2006. Two protocols have gone through the preliminary approval process and will be used as proof of concept before the program develops further.
Dr. David Vail and the Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium were recently featured in the October 2005 Nature Medicine journal. To view the article, click on naturemed.pdf.