Dogs Get Cancer, Too

Did you know that companion animals, like dogs and cats, naturally develop many of the same diseases as humans? Statistics show that over 4.2 million dogs naturally develop cancer each year, in comparison to 1.7 million humans. Dogs are actually a very important model for studying diseases, such as cancer, because not only do many dogs naturally develop cancer in their lifetimes, but cancer tumors in dogs are similar to those found in humans affected with the disease. A recent Forbes article discusses the importance of dogs in the biomedical research community’s mission to find a cure for cancer in both humans and animals.

Dogs are also excellent models for cancer studies because they live in the same types of environments as humans, meaning they are exposed to the same bacteria, household products, noises and other stimuli as we are. Dogs also age more quickly than humans. Have you ever heard the saying, “1 human year equals 7 dog years?” Well, for studying diseases like cancer, this popular belief becomes useful. Because the lifespan of a dog is shorter, it experiences the different stages of cancer much more rapidly than humans. This allows researchers to collect invaluable data in a speedier manner than when collecting data from human cancer patients.

Mice, which make up ~95% of all animals used in biomedical research, are excellent models for most areas of research, but dogs provide a unique model for finding cures and treatments for cancer in both humans and animals.

Please follow this link to read the full Forbes story about the importance of dogs in finding a cure for cancer in humans and animals.

The “Magic” that Saved Jimmy Kimmel’s Son Made Possible by Animal Research

This blog post was originally published by the Foundation for Biomedical Research on May 4, 2017:

Addressing his television audience on Monday night, Jimmy Kimmel tearfully thanked the doctors and nurses who saved the life of his son, born last week with a congenital heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) with Pulmonary Atresia (PA). The rare disease is characterized by four main heart defects that can be corrected by a series of operations over several years—all made possible by decades of research with laboratory animals.

At Cedars-Sinai, where Kimmel’s wife Molly McNearney delivered the baby, the couple’s doctor performed an echocardiogram on the newborn to confirm that his bluish complexion was the result of a cardiovascular defect. The device, which Kimmel accurately likens to a sonogram of the heart, was developed with experimental research using animals. In the 1950s, researchers credited with pioneering the echocardiogram made medically significant discoveries about the origin of echo signals within the organ by using models procured from calves. Today, scientists rely on animals, from rodents and rabbits to dogs and pigs, to perform experimental research that result in technological improvements to the equipment—potentially raising its efficacy in detecting heart problems in human patients like Kimmel’s baby.

Tetralogy of Fallot must be treated surgically. The infant was taken by ambulance to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where Doctor Vaughn A. Starnes “went in there with a scalpel and did some kind of magic that I couldn’t even begin to explain,” Kimmel said. “He opened the valve, and the operation was a success.”

It certainly does look like magic.

The procedure, a Blalock–Taussig shunt, increases blood flow to the lungs thereby alleviating the patient’s cyanosis, or the blue coloring that often presents as a symptom (most commonly of skin on the face and extremities). It involves joining the subclavian artery to the pulmonary artery, which the surgical research team first performed successfully with dogs before adapting the instruments for use on humans. This revolutionary development in medical science is lifesaving for infant patients, and it’s also used in the treatment of dogs themselves that are born with congenital heart conditions.

Each year, four of every 10,000 babies are diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot. With corrective surgery, most will thrive, just like Kimmel’s baby: “Six days after open heart surgery we got to bring him home, which was amazing,” the comedian said. “He’s doing great; he’s eating; he’s sleeping; he peed on his mother today when she was changing his diaper; he’s doing all the things he’s supposed to do.”

Kimmel’s son will have a second open-heart surgery in three to six months, and when he reaches adolescence, will undergo a third and final procedure that doctors expect will be minimally invasive. Each will likely require a cardiopulmonary bypass—which mimics heart and lung function for the duration of surgery, keeping the patient alive. The device is an adaptation of early “heart-lung machines;” among the first iterations was a model created in the 1920s by research with canines. The cardiopulmonary bypass enabled the first human heart transplant in 1967—a medical milestone made possible, again, by research with dogs.

Thanks to the skill and expertise of pediatric cardiologists, working with cutting edge science and medicine developed through animal research, more than 63,000 children have been given a new chance at life with successful heart transplants. Many thousands more, including Kimmel’s son, have been successfully diagnosed and treated thanks to research performed with animal models.

Last year we shared the emotional story of Lincoln Seay, an infant who survived open-heart surgery and a heart transplant after he was diagnosed with a rare congenital disorder called heterotaxy syndrome. Manifestations of the condition vary, but, as in the case with Tetralogy of Fallot, it is often associated with cyanosis. Lincoln’s inspirational story serves as another testament to the lifesaving power of modern medicine developed with animal subjects. It also hints at the potential medical breakthroughs on the horizon thanks to promising new research (with zebrafish)!

Like many pediatric cardiologists, Lincoln’s surgeons faced challenges that make their success all the more remarkable: the seven-month-old went into cardiac arrest as they waited for the donor organ needed for his transplant—which necessitated an emergency surgery to compress his heart. This, followed by the transplantation, is especially tough on the tiny body of an infant patient.

It’s not easy for family members in the waiting room, either.

All over the world, scientists and researchers rely on animal models to discover more about how to detect and treat congenital heart defects—offering infants like Lincoln, and Kimmel’s son, a second chance at life. The innovations in medical devices and surgical techniques that result from this work have enabled healthcare providers to perform magic, one baby’s beating heart at a time.

Guest author: Chris Kane is a writer with a background in non-profit communications.

Researchers Using Dog Cancer Drug Against Kids’ Brain Cancer

Could the antidote for glioblastoma, one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer, in children be a current treatment for dogs?  That’s what researchers at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City are trying to figure out. According to an article in The Kansas City Star, it could be.

Researchers for human or animal health have often worked separately.  However, a collaboration between the two could lead to remarkable results. The Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute brought together over 300 scientists and student-researchers to coordinate efforts on immunotherapy for cancer treatments. That matchmaking birthed a relationship between Children’s Mercy and Elias Animal Health, a Missouri company testing immunotherapy treatments for osteosarcoma in dogs at the veterinary health centers at Kansas State University and the University of Missouri. According to the article, protocols for glioblastoma are in development. Children’s Mercy and Elias Animal Health are planning to apply for a Phase 2 trial with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Glioblastoma kills about 60%-70% of kids within two years, even when treated with standard care like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. The hope for the success of this partnership is immense; both the human and veterinary angles have something to offer.  Pre-clinical human studies are often conducted with mice are cost-effective but those with higher order species like dogs offer more predictable results. Animal health studies cost less and move more quickly than government-regulated human trials.

Please click here to read more about this possible groundbreaking partnership and please share it with your friends, family, and colleagues on social media.

Live Vaccines Could Mean Fewer Veterinary Visits

Did you know that our pets can contract the influenza virus?  We may someday be able to thank biomedical research for helping us avoid another trip to the veterinary office. A team of researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry has developed two live vaccines that may help prevent the highly contagious canine influenza, as well as improve human health.

Led by Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, the team developed a live vaccine that replicates in the main point of entry for the virus—a dog’s nose—which could prevent the virus from spreading to the rest of the body. The results of the study showed that the vaccine is not only safe, but also more effective in protecting dogs against the H3N8 canine influenza virus than currently available inactivated vaccines.

Martinez-Sobrido’s team also used a new technique to remove the NS1 protein from the H3N8 canine influenza virus, successfully weakening the flu virus so an immune response is created without the unpleasant accompanying illness. This approach has been shown to potentially be more safe and effective than the traditional inactivated H3N8 vaccine.

Next, the team will test the two live vaccine approaches in clinical trials with dogs. They ultimately hope to address the spread of influenza in shelters and kennels, as well as from dogs to humans. This research is further being used to address other dog flu viruses, including the H3N2 canine influenza. Early studies indicate that the H3N2 live-attenuated vaccine outperforms the only currently available inactivated vaccine in protecting against the H3N2 virus.

To stay up to date on new studies in the animal research community, make sure to follow NABR on Twitter.

Are Mice the Key to Unlocking a Vaccine Against Breast Cancer?

Scientists may have found a new way to protect high-risk individuals from developing breast cancer, a disease that will impact about 1 in 8 women in her lifetime.  According to recent news coverage, researchers from the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna and from the Medical University of Vienna have successfully tested a vaccine with artificial HER2 antigens.  HER2 proteins cause breast cancer tumors to grow and it is present at above normal levels in about 30% of breast tumors. Thanks to research with mice this new vaccine could be on its way to patients to prevent breast cancer.

The immune system does not attack mutated cancer cells.  However, artificial tumor antigens, otherwise known as mimotopes, can stimulate an immune response. Unfortunately, these mimotopes need to have a carrier to be effective and with past carriers the mimotopes have changed their structure, decreasing their effectiveness in the body.

Researchers have found the vaccine is much more effective if the HER2 mimotopes are paired with particles of a virus.  The viral particles are too small to cause disease but are enough to cause an aggressive immune response.  This immune response is associated with the mimotopes and the body then begins to attack breast cancer cells.  In mouse models, those vaccinated with the antigen were shielded at significant levels from growing tumors; while the control group developed the cancer.

This potential vaccine could protect people and those who have had breast cancer in the past.  And, in a surprising twist, it can also be used in man’s best friend.  The HER2 protein performs similar functions in human and canine breast cancer.  The research team found that the protein corresponds about 90% between dogs and people.

To read more about this new discovery, please click here.

The Undeniable Truth: Lab Animals Are Helping Our Pets

You may have already seen a recent blog post by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) that showcases just one of the many important missions of biomedical research: saving endangered species. From in vitro fertilization to helping stop the spread of disease in the wild, animal research is working to make sure that endangered and threatened species of animals live on for generations to come. But what is animal research and testing doing to help our pets at home? FBR took a closer look at that question in a story posted on their website yesterday.

Vaccines, cancer treatments, and anxiety medications, for example, were developed through animal research and improve the health not only of people, but companion  dogs and cats. Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs and their tumors are very similar to those found in people. Clinical trials with dogs and cats have yielded valuable data to test the effectiveness of drugs and treatment regimens. In fact, more and more pet owners are enrolling their companions in clinical trials.

But there’s more. Drugs like Prozac developed for people, through studies with rats, mice, and dogs, are effective in alleviating anxiety in dogs. Studied in rodents, pigs, and primates, Rapamycin, the commonly prescribed anti-rejection medication for humans, is now given to dogs for improved heart health. Cats with hyperthyroid disease are treated with radioiodine – a common treatment for human thyroid disease.

Vaccinations are essential in ensuring the future health of both people and animals. Back in 1885, Louis Pasteur developed a rabies vaccine with rabbits. In 1982, researchers studying dogs were able to create the vaccine against canine parvovirus (often referred to as parvo), saving the lives of countless puppies. Vaccine development for animal-specific diseases often offer invaluable information in the hunt to rid the world of human disease, as well. Given the fact that feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is very similar in structure to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), studies in FIV provide insights which could inform the development of an HIV vaccine.

It’s very clear that without animal research scientists and veterinarians would not be armed with the knowledge necessary to improve the health of both wild and companion animals. Please take a moment to read FBR’s latest installment on animal research helping animals and share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and on social media. Feel free to share your thoughts in the blog section on FBR’s site.

Dogs Providing Valuable Insight into Human and Canine Diabetes

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, have diabetes. Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases in which blood sugars are high over a prolonged period of time and is the result of either the pancreas not manufacturing enough insulin or the body’s cells not responding properly to the produced insulin.  Doctors know that a healthy diet, exercise, avoiding tobacco products, and maintaining proper body weight are important factors in prevention but still more needs to be done to unlock better treatments and medications. That’s why researchers are looking at some of our canine friends to help people and dogs.

Recently, the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) took a close look at the interesting subject of diabetes in dogs. We’ve all seen them before: dogs who like to eat and subsequently gain weight. That added weight can render them susceptible to a disease commonly associated with humans: diabetes. Thankfully, just in the same way that animal research has helped human diabetics, dogs are enjoying the results of those studies. If injectable insulin treatments aren’t effective, oral medications like Acarbose, a drug that inhibits carbohydrates’ ability to be converted into simple sugars, can be prescribed. Scientists are even exploring gene therapy to cure diabetic dogs. By injecting functional genes that integrated into the dogs’ genome, the dogs’ systems were able to sense and respond to blood sugar level changes. Gene therapy has been successful in maintaining normal blood sugar levels for more than four years after treatment. Because diabetes is dogs is similar to type 1 diabetes in humans, this treatment has the potential to be a big breakthrough for both dogs and people.

To read FBR’s post about the interesting subject of how animal research is benefitting dogs, too, please click here.

Unintended Consequences for Maryland Research Animals

Veterinarian Shannon Stutler explains her opposition to a Maryland research animal adoption bill in a March 29 Baltimore Sun op-ed column, Unintended Consequences for Maryland Research Animals.

House Bill 594, the Humane Adoption of Companion Animals Used in Research Act of 2016, is now working its way through the Maryland Senate.  The bill passed the Assembly.  Dr. Stutler opposes the bill, calling it simply "feel good" legislation proposed by animal rights activists who seek the immediate end of all animal-based research.  It would impose on Maryland's research and teaching institutions onerous mandates that would do little to support animals and could have an unintended consequence: increasing the number of animals in Maryland's shelters that may be euthanized rather than adopted.  The adoption of post-study animals is already widely embraced by the research community. Many institutions already have customized, responsible and detailed adoption policies managed by veterinary specialists familiar with the special considerations and needs of retired research animals. For the sake of the animals, Dr. Stutler urges Maryland's legislators to reject this unnecessary legislation.

To read Dr. Stutler's op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, please click here.

#ThrowbackThursday Video: “Hope”

Throwback Thursday is a social media phenomenon where users share items from the past.  A couple of weeks ago for Throwback Thursday, NABR shared a 1984 educational film by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) created to show the public the critical importance of animal research in discovering new medicines, treatments, and surgical techniques to better improve global human and animal health.  We dug into the archives to share another FBR video vignette, “Hope.”

Hope,” also produced by FBR, is narrated by Dr. Judson Randolph who discusses a number of lifesaving and life-improving developments in pediatric medicine and their implementation at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC.  Dr. Judson speaks of the value of sheep in the creation of ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) and its crucial use in saving a young girl’s life.  Research with primates, mice, dogs, and pigs were also important models in the development of bone marrow transplants to cure a young boy with leukemia.

To watch “Hope,” please click here or view the video below.  Also, please share this video with your family, friends, colleagues, and on social media.

 

Dogs’ Role in Cancer Research Featured in Latest FBR Editorial

On Saturday, December 26, the New York Daily News featured an op-ed written by Frankie Trull, the President of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), covering the important role that man’s best friend plays in conquering cancer.

The editorial, “Animal-rights groups dog cancer research,” discusses how animal rights groups like the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) are putting the lives of dogs and humans in danger by campaigning against animal research that is saving the lives of both species. Trull notes the results of two cancer studies involving dogs that yielded promising results and that opportunities for canines to receive cutting-edge cancer therapies are increasing rapidly.  In fact, the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium is currently operating dog trials at 20 institutions around the country.

Why would animal rights groups oppose such research?  Animal rights groups want to end all animal research.  As Trull notes in her op-ed, “If they succeed, many cancer patients — across multiple species — will die. Who knows how long it will take to cure cancer if scientists are precluded from using some of the most effective research techniques available to them.  And that’s to say nothing of the dogs who will die along the way.”

The New York Daily News is one of the top 10 papers in the U.S.  Thus far in 2015, FBR editorials have appeared in 4 out of the top 10 newspapers in the country.  To view other stories from FBR’s media campaign, please click here.

Please click here to read the editorial.  To learn more about dogs in biomedical research, please click here.

Please help FBR continue spreading the word on the critical importance of humane animal research, and share "Animal-rights groups dog cancer research" with your friends, family, colleagues and on social media.  You can make a difference by donating to FBR by clicking below or by calling (202) 457-0654.

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