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Canine cancer vaccine trial gets underway
“The vaccine may not be effective, but this is probably the only approach to this type of vaccine, so we feel we have to try it." Professor Stephen Johnston.
Study is the largest of its kind in the history of veterinary medicine

One of the largest clinical trials conducted to date for canine cancer is currently underway in the United States.

Researchers from the University of California, Colorado State University and the University of Wisconsin are participating in the Vaccination Against Canine Cancer Study (VACCS trial) to assess a new vaccine strategy for the prevention, rather than the treatment, of cancer in dogs.

Scientists hope that, if the vaccine works, it could provide important justification for exploring a similar approach in humans.

David Vail, a professor and board-certified oncologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, said: “We’re testing a totally novel way of creating an anti-cancer immune response. The holy grail would be to prevent cancer as opposed to waiting for it to start and then treating it.”

The preventative cancer vaccine works similarly to how an influenza vaccine supports the body’s ability to fight flu. I.e., “to have the immune system primed such that if a cancer cell develops, it will attack,” said Vail.  

With over 800 dogs participating in the trial, the study is the largest of its kind conducted to date, and in the history of veterinary medicine.

Professor Stephen Johnston from Arizona State University, who developed the vaccine, said: “The vaccine may not be effective, but this is probably the only approach to this type of vaccine, so we feel we have to try it. The implications of success would be quite large — for dogs and people.”

The vaccine is designed to target some 30 abnormal proteins found on the surface of cancer cells. These proteins, which are the result of incorrectly-coded RNA, are generally only found in patients with cancer.

Scientists hope that by vaccinating healthy patients with these proteins, together with a substance that stimulates an immune response, the vaccine could serve as a universal defender against cancer by “turning on” the immune system.

The vaccine will target several cancers common to dogs, including lymphoma, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma and mastocytomas.

Participating dogs must be aged between six and 10 years, with no previous history of cancer. The dogs will receive either a series of inoculations or a placebo and will live at home while being checked two-to-three times a year, for five years after enrolment.

Researchers have agreed to cover the costs associated with diagnostics and treatment of any cancers that dogs develop, whether or not they are receiving a vaccine or placebo.

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COVID-19 resources for veterinary professionals

News Story 1
 RCVS Knowledge, the charity partner of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), has published a page of COVID-19 coronavirus resources for veterinary professionals across the industry.

The resource, which can be found here, includes veterinary advice, updates, research and evidence regarding the virus. The advice encompasses information to help veterinary professionals respond to questions from their clients and the BCVA's latest guidance for farm animal vets.

Veterinary professionals are urged to share the resource on social media and let RCVS Knowledge know of any additions. 

Click here for more...
News Shorts
BVA senior vice president appointed chair of FVE working group

Senior vice president of the BVA Dr Simon Doherty has been appointed as chair of the Food Safety & Sustainability working group of the Federation of Veterinarians in Europe (FVE).

Dr Doherty has 20 years' experience in farm animal and equine veterinary practice, industry and academia. He has been working as a senior lecturer at the Queen's University Belfast Institute for Global Food Security since 2018 and is a trustee of Send a Cow and the Animal Welfare Foundation.

The Food Safety & Sustainability working group will support FVE in all matters related to food safety, food security and sustainable livestock systems. It will also assist FVE in taking the most effective policies at EU level.