By: Laura Goldman, Care2.com, April 17, 2017
The statistics are grim: About 60 to 70 percent of children who have glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, do not survive more than two years. This fast-growing cancer is resistant to traditional treatments like radiation and chemotherapy.
For dogs, cancer statistics are also grim. More than 6 million dogs are diagnosed with cancer every year, and one out of four dogs will get cancer during their lifetime. It’s the leading cause of death for dogs after the age of two.
But there could be hope for both dogs and kids. A vaccine being developed that destroys cancer cells in dogs could also be successful in fighting glioblastoma in children.
Researchers at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., have started a partnership with ELIAS Animal Health, a company that’s testing treatments for osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and B cell lymphoma in dogs.
“If we take advantage of the resources we have in this region and get behind those collaborations, this could be a mecca for advanced, exciting, innovative therapies for cancer and lots of other diseases,” Dr. Doug Myers, an oncologist at Children’s Mercy, told the Kansas City Star.
ELIAS Cancer Immunotherapy (ECI) uses the dog’s own immune system to destroy the cancer. “Research has shown that ex vivo activated T cells have the machinery to effectively kill cancer cells, including cancer stem cells,” according to the company’s website. “ELIAS Cancer Immunotherapy utilizes adoptive cell therapy to deliver an army of activated T cells.”
The dog is vaccinated with his own cancer cells to produce an immune response, then the generated white blood cells destroy the cancer cells.
“Personalized T cells are then safely obtained from the patient through apheresis [the removal of blood] and then ‘super charged’ to produce a large population of killer T cells that are reinfused into the patient to kill the cancer,” the company explains.
ELIAS Animal Health is currently conducting clinical trials of ECI at Kansas State University, the University of Missouri-Columbia and a few animal hospitals across the country. The success rates of using ECI along with surgery on dogs with cancer are being compared with those of patients that are treated with surgery alone.
“Early clinical study results already show positive outcomes,” Tammie Wahaus, CEO of ELIAS Animal Health, said in November 2016.
Among the ECI success stories is that of Dakota, a German shorthaired pointer who continues to survive a year after she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. This is twice as long as her original prognosis. X-rays taken during a follow-up examination showed no signs of the cancer spreading.
Could ECI also successfully treat children with glioblastoma? Dr. Kevin Ginn, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Mercy, and other researchers are currently developing protocols for trials. They’re planning to apply for a Phase II clinical trial with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, using the results of ECI’s studies on safety and effectiveness as far as dogs are concerned. The Phase II trial would give ECI to a large group of children to see if it’s effective and further evaluate its safety.
Animal health trials are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are less expensive and proceed faster than FDA-regulated human trials, the Kansas City Star reports, “but successful human health treatments often bring a larger return on investment.”
In this case, a larger return on investment could be a win-win for children as well as dogs with cancer.