Veterinary researchers in the United States are testing a new therapy for treating bone cancer in dogs that could one day lead to the treatment of cancers in humans.

Veterinary researchers in the United States are testing a new therapy for treating bone cancer in dogs that could one day lead to the treatment of cancers in humans.

osteosarcomaAccording to Bruce Smith, director of the Alabama-based Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer, the treatment consists of a virus that has been modified to only make copies of itself inside bone cancer cells.

The virus, normally used as a hepatitis vaccine in dogs, ruptures the cancer cells and releases thousands of copies of the virus from the tumor cells, killing them.
 
Dr Smith explained: “By using this approach, we turn the cancer cell into a ‘factory’ that produces more virus. You could say that we help the cancer cell become an agent of its own death.”
 
bruce smithBone cancer (osteosarcoma) accounts for around 5% of canine tumors. It is a malignant tumor and can develop in any bone, but mostly occurs in bones bordering the shoulder, wrist and knee. Its highly aggressive nature means that more than 90% of all clinically significant osteosarcomas have already micrometastasised by the time of diagnosis, spreading to the lungs, other bones and even lymph nodes.
 
This therapy attacks those metastases and will hopefully eliminate them or make them more sensitive to chemotherapy,” said Dr Smith.
 
The research is being funded by a two-year grant worth $118,848 (£77,342), awarded to Dr Smith by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation.

X-ray image courtesy Joel Mills
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