Friday, July 19, 2024

Novel Cancer Vaccine Successfully Slows Cancers in Dogs

Researchers at Yale University have developed a novel vaccine that can halt or slow certain cancers in dogs. Eventually, it could also be used to treat humans.

Hunter, an 11-year-old golden retriever was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer, two years ago. Even with medical treatment, it kills up to 65 percent of dogs within 12 months.

After being diagnosed, Hunter, who had worked as a search-and-rescue-dog for many years, had his front left leg amputated in addition to chemotherapy. He also received a novel vaccine that was developed by Mark Mamula, a Professor of Medicine at Yale University.


It has been two years since he was diagnosed and the senior pup has no signs of cancer. While he no longer works as a search-and-rescue dog, he can still run, catch, and fetch. He also helps his owner train other dogs to perform rescue duties.

The vaccine, which is a type of immunotherapy, is currently being reviewed by the USDA, the governing body that regulates animal treatments.

The treatment has been subject to several clinical trials over the past years and so far, the results are promising. Like Hunter, many dogs have shown significant improvement since receiving the novel therapy.

Mamula believes the vaccine is a ‘badly needed weapon’ in the battle against cancer for dogs, as they like humans, can get cancer spontaneously. His own dog had died of an incurable cancer over a decade ago.

dr mamula

According to Mamula, who studies autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes and lupus at the Yale School of Medicine, he never thought that he would one day develop a cancer vaccine for canines.

However. it was his work on autoimmune diseases that led him to cancer research.

A few years ago, Mamula and his team developed a potential cancer therapy – one that triggered a targeted immune response against cancer cells. He also compared tumors to the target of autoimmune diseases, as cancer cells are also attacked by the host’s own immune system.

Targeting Cancer Cells

There are more than 90 million dogs in the United States and it’s estimated that one in four will be diagnosed with cancer. The ratio further increases to one in two among those who are ten years or older.

Despite that, there have been very few developments in canine cancer therapy over the past decades.

In 2015, Mamula vet Gerry Post, a veterinary oncologist treated cancer in dogs, cats, turtles, snakes, and other animals. After some discussion, they realized it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to develop a cancer vaccine for dogs as human and canine cancers are similar in several ways.

mamula with dogs
Dr. Mamula with his own golden retrievers

The types of cancers that affect canines are also similar. Like humans, they can get colon cancer, breast cancer, osteosarcoma, and melanoma, among others.

After some testing with mice, they launched their first clinical trials with dogs in 2016.

To date. over 300 dogs have received the novel vaccine across the U.S. and Canada. The results are also promising. According to Mamula and his team, the treatment increases the 12-month survival rates from 35 to 60%.

The vaccine also decreased the size of the tumor in many dogs.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.


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