Nine-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback cross Gus has participated in an innovativeAustralian pilot study for dogs with cancer, which has achieved some positiveresults.

University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science senior pathologistAssociate Professor Rachel Allavena said the trial involved directly injectingtreatments into the dogs’ tumours.

“The treatments resulted in 20 per cent of the dogs being cured of theircancer,” Dr Allavena said.

“For some of the other dogs, expected survival time was extended, from eightweeks to 12 months in one case, and 17 months in another.”

“My research uses immunotherapies, to ‘wake up’ the immune system so itrecognises the foreign cancer, and starts to destroy it.

Dr Allavena said the team was also trialling a vaccine made by extractingproteins from the dog’s own cancer, customising it for each canine patient.

“In dogs which respond to the vaccine, the cancer melts away or stops growing,and Gus fortunately has benefited,” she said.

“In both cases we know the treatments are safe for the pet dog, who gets toremain with their family throughout the treatment.”

Gus’s owner, Angela de Villiers, said she was heart-broken when she learned hehad an aggressive cancer known as a mast cell tumour on his leg.

“His prognosis was not good and they told us they could not remove all of thecancer with margins due to its location,” she said.

“We love our dogs so subjecting Gus to a nasty surgery and then radiationtherapy was just not an option, and we decided to just try and make what timehe had left awesome.

“Dr Annika Oksa Walker and the UQ team looked at his case and assured me thathe would not have to undergo too many long sessions.

“Luckily, although mast cell is bad, it responds well to the treatment.

“Gus started his treatments in early September and his tumour has not grown.

“He has no pain and there are no signs of it anywhere else on his body.

Although there are no guarantees, we are very hopeful that Gus will be able tolive a full life and enjoy his old age.”

Dr Allavena said canine cancers had similar appearance, behaviour, geneticsand environmental causes to human cancers, so the study effectively advancesboth human and canine medicine.

“Cancer is common in our pet dogs, and certain breeds are very prone tospecific cancers, creating a powerful research opportunity,” she said.

“The new treatments have cured pets, and provided safety and efficacy data forongoing human clinical trials.”

Dr Allavena’s research group studies several major common and devastatingcancers in pet dogs – mast cell tumour, lymphoma, melanoma and carcinomas.

The UQ VETS Small Animal Hospital at the University’s Gatton campus hasinternal medicine specialists who perform pet cancer treatments.

Dr Allavena said researchers appreciated community support to improve thehealth and welfare of pets such as Gus at the UQ VETS Small Animal Hospital.

“Our research has advanced with the support of the John & Mary Kibble Trust,Canine Research Foundation and private donors,” she said

The study is being conducted by UQ, in conjunction with colleagues atAustralian National University and the University of Sydney.

People wishing to support UQ research to benefit companion animals can visit

Owners of dogs that may benefit from participating in the trial can contact DrAnnika Oksa Walker by email on [email protected].

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