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Wisconsin dogs participate in clinical trial for canine cancer vaccine

Posted at 10:06 AM, Jul 31, 2019

Wisconsin dogs could be a big part of curing cancer.

Ruairi is a 9-year-old Irish Water Spaniel and one of 280 dogs in Wisconsin getting a vaccine intended to prevent cancer. Ruairi's mom is intrigued by the possibilities.

"I think it's important," said Lisa Schaitberger. "Cancer rates are going up in dogs, as well as people. To be able to participate and help canines and humans is really important."

Veterinarian Oncologist Dr. David Vail is heading up the study for the University of Wisconsin Veterinary Care.

"Hopefully this technology will work in our companion dogs, our pet dogs and if that's the case it's very likely to work in humans," said Dr. David Vail.

He said the idea came from an immunologist at Arizona State University.

"He was thinking outside the box about a way of vaccinating patients, both dogs and people, to essentially set up wanted posters for the immune system to recognize cancer cells as they develop," said Dr. Vail.

The clinical trial is about prevention rather than waiting until the dogs develop cancer.

"Almost all of the anti-cancer vaccine work is done after a patient has developed cancer," said Vail.

Eight-hundred dogs will be entered into the study with help from Wisconsin, Colorado State University and University of California-Davis.

"It's the largest interventional clinical trial in the history of veterinarian medicine," said Vail.

Almost every breed is eligible. The dogs are screened to make sure they are cancer-free before getting their shots.

"And the endpoint is, do they develop cancer of not," said Vail.

Some dogs will get a placebo vaccine.

What is the best case scenario?

"We determine that dogs that receive the vaccine have a lower cancer rate than the dogs that did not receive a vaccine and that it works for many different types of cancer types," said Vail.

That could translate to human clinical trials.

Ruairi's mom is confident her fur baby is in good hands.

"Animals are going to they can't give us their feedback other than through their blood and if they're happy and they're healthy and they're going through this and giving their all for us, I think the vets tend to give their all back to the animal," said Schaitberger.

Researchers at Wisconsin have already entered 40 dogs into the study. The rest of the spaces have been filled. They will follow those dogs for five years.