Veterinary comparative oncology researchers at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, including members of the Cancer Center at Illinois (CCIL), are making progress on their investigation into a new immunotherapy option for canines with osteosarcoma.

The trial evaluates the novel combination of using radiation therapy with an innate immune stimulating molecule called CpG oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) injected into the tumor site.

“This is hopefully working as a vaccine effect. We’re trying to amplify the immune response locally. Then the immune system can have this body-wide surveillance to kill cancer cells that have already spread from the tumor location to other parts of the body,” said Dr. Matthew Berry, a veterinary oncologist.

This study, supported by the Morris Animal Foundation, will lay the groundwork for the treatment’s safety and ability to activate the immune system. Researchers plan to launch a future clinical trial with a larger group of dogs to determine if the treatment is as effective as traditional chemotherapy. Their findings could eventually have implications for the treatment of osteosarcoma in humans.

“One of the big barriers in people with osteosarcoma is that it would take 10 years for you to run a clinical trial in people because of the rarity of the tumor,” said Dr. Timothy M. Fan, a professor of veterinary oncology and CCIL Associate Director for Development and Translation. “Those barriers are dramatically reduced when we look at dogs with osteosarcoma. Instead of 1,000 people a year, we have 50,000 dogs a year affected with osteosarcoma, and the turnaround time to know if the therapy works is about a year for the dog versus five to seven in a person.”

You can find more information about clinical trials at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital here.

Editor’s Notes:

Story written by Jessica Clegg, CCIL Communications

Video by Jessica Clegg, Jakob Stutz, and Kamryn Grey