Could immunotherapy be helpful for cancer in dogs?

Four years ago, Irv Weissman, MD, and his lab at Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine published a paper showing that, in mice, blocking a cell surface protein called CD47 might be useful in treating nearly every kind of human cancer. In response, hundreds of people wrote in to find out if they or their loved one might get treated with the antibody, even though clinical trials in humans were still years away.

What struck me as I answered those emails and letters was that for many people, the loved one they wanted to cure of cancer was a cherished pet. People wrote pleading letters on behalf of cancer-stricken dogs and cats, and one time even a parrot. Regretfully, I had to tell them that the anti-CD47 therapy hadn’t been tested on cancers in pets.

Now, researchers from Stanford, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota and other institutions, have shown that blocking the CD47 receptor can help treat at least one kind of canine cancer. I wrote a news article that discusses the research, which was published this week in the journal Cancer Immunology Research.

The researchers treated mice with canine cancer with a combination of a molecule blocking the CD47 signal and an antibody that helped guides immune cells to the cancer. They found that all the treated animals survived with no further signs of their disease.

The researchers next plan to carry out clinical trials in dogs with cancer.

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