Category Archives: Cancer

Spaying and neutering: are there long-term health effects?

iStock_000001760646SmallIt’s a well-known mantra: “Spay or neuter your pets.” The intention is usually to reduce the unwanted pet population by preventing pets from reproducing, but new research shows that spaying or neutering could contribute to other health problems.

Researchers investigated the incidences of several joint disorders (hip and elbow dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tear) and cancers (lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumors, and mammary cancer). They found an increase in the incidence of two joint disorders and three cancers in neutered or spayed dogs, and interestingly, they found that the dog’s breed makes a difference.

In both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, the incidence of joint disorders in intact dogs is about 5%. From analyzing data from veterinary hospital records, researchers found that neutering Labradors at under six months of age doubled the incidence of joint disorders, and neutering Goldens at under six months of age increased the chance of a joint disorder to 4-5 times that of an intact dog. They also found that spaying female Goldens increased the incidence of other cancers by 3-4 times!

This is important information, because Labradors and Goldens are both very popular breeds, and understanding the associated risks of spaying or neutering should be important to pet owners. It’s also possible that research like this could prompt new recommendations for spaying and neutering, while taking the dog’s age and breed into account.

Responsible pet ownership is a hot topic, and spaying and neutering has been an invaluable part of reducing the numbers of unwanted pets that end up in shelters. What do you think? Have you spayed or neutered your pets? Why or why not?

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0102241

Fertility options for male pediatric cancer patients on the horizon!

Dad's loveIn a novel approach at preserving fertility, researchers have successfully produced live offspring from cryopreserved testicle tissue.

You may think that cryopreserving testicle tissue is kind of a stretch- but many cancer patients undergoing treatments don’t have options when it comes to preserving fertility. Doctors can cryopreserve sperm if the patient has already reached puberty, but for young boys, that’s not an option.

By cryopreserving testicle tissue, researchers are able to thaw tissue at a later date and induce the production of sperm. This research was carried out in mice, and through artificial insemination, eight healthy offspring were produced! Amazingly, thawed tissue was able to produce sperm just as well as unfrozen tissue.

There’s still some work to be done before this research can be translated into humans. But as more and more pediatric cancer patients are being successfully cured of their diseases, this research could mean life-changing, long-term fertility options. Read more about it here:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/health/sns-rt-us-health-testicles-20140701,0,847490.story

Bone cancer vaccine gives hope to dogs AND humans

iStock_000016358177XSmallA trial at the University of Pennsylvania’s school of veterinary medicine is introducing a groundbreaking treatment for dogs suffering from osteosarcoma. Dogs in the trial are receiving an experimental vaccine that trains the immune system to recognize tumor cells and to kill them- and it’s working!

More than 10,000 dogs are diagnosed each year with osteosarcoma, which is an aggressive type of bone cancer. Most dogs die within a year of diagnosis, but in this trial, many of the dogs in the study have survived for more than two years. Check out this video to see an update on Denali, a therapy dog enrolled in the trial.

The biology of canine osteosarcoma is the same as the biology of these tumors in children, so the information gained from this study could one day help children with osteosarcoma. There are also types of breast cancer that have similarities to osteosarcoma, so the human benefits aren’t limited to one type of cancer.

Researchers are looking for more dogs with osteosarcoma to participate in this trial. Does your dog qualify? If so, check out the link here for more information.

Canine melanoma vaccine coming soon!

jackrussellpixabayThe first therapeutic vaccine for cancer has been conditionally licensed by the USDA! And man’s best friend will benefit from it. This vaccine is intended as a treatment for dogs with stage II or stage III oral melanoma, and hopefully, it will dramatically improve the quality of life for pets suffering from this type of cancer.

Canine oral melanoma is very aggressive and can be difficult to treat. Melanoma tumors contain a protein called tyrosinase, and the vaccine works by introducing human tyrosinase into the dog’s body, which stimulates an immune response against the protein.

Because canine oral melanoma affects a small percentage of the dog population, using a vaccine as a treatment instead of a preventative seems to be the best option at this point. But if veterinarians were able to determine certain breeds or populations of dogs that were at risk, it’s possible that this treatment could be modified for use as a preventative vaccine.

By starting with a vaccine treatment for oral melanoma, it’s possible that this could lead to the development of vaccine treatments for other types of cancer. Interestingly, this development first began with basic animal research, moved into research in human treatments, and now it’s back to animals by benefiting man’s best friend! Who knows- this may lead to the development of human melanoma treatments. Read more about it here:

http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/vet-dept/canine-practice/canine-melanoma-vaccine-gets-conditional-ok.aspx

Leukemia pill could bring hope to other cancer patients

iStock_000014156140SmallA pill intended for leukemia treatment may soon make a big difference for patients suffering from a variety of cancers. These drugs worked so well against leukemia that during trials, patients taking placebo pills were switched over to the real drug!

Cancer cells produce an enzyme called p110. This enzyme suppresses immunity, making it hard for the body to fight back against disease. The drug works by blocking that enzyme so the body can fight back more efficiently.

It turns out that this pill could be effective against a wider range of cancers than previously thought. Through research in mice with a variety of cancers, survival rate was greatly increased. Mouse studies indicate that this could be an effective treatment against breast cancer by not only minimizing the spread of the disease, but also by improving survival rates after removal of breast tumors!

P110 inhibitors could quickly become part of cancer treatments, as the drugs are already being successfully used on cancer patients. It will be interesting to see if administration of this drug for other types of cancer will be as successful as animal trials. Read more about it here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2655793/Pill-used-treat-leukaemia-used-beat-cancers-stop-deadly-disease-returning.html

Albino Doberman Pinschers: genetic culprit identified!

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092127.g001

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092127.g001

Researchers at Michigan State University have finally identified the genetic mutation that causes albinism in Doberman Pinschers. The same gene can also cause a form of albinism in humans. This gene mutation results in a missing protein that is necessary for cells to be pigmented. And unfortunately, both dogs and humans with albinism can experience sun sensitivity and are at a higher risk for skin tumors. But identifying the genetic culprit behind the condition is a big deal!

This gene can be carried without being expressed, which means that a dog that doesn’t exhibit albinism could pass the gene to its offspring. This research could help improve Doberman breeding programs by identifying the genes to select away from. Healthier dogs are good for everyone!

Humans and animals are more similar than you may think when it comes to genes, diseases, and illnesses. In this particular case, the genetic variance that causes albinism is similar in dogs and in humans. It’s possible that this knowledge could allow researchers to look at possible ways of preventing skin tumors in dogs with albinism, and then translate those results into treatments for humans!

http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/mans-best-friend-shares-similar-albino-gene/

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0092127

Prospects for puppies with parvovirus: possibly pleasantly positive!

sick puppyAnyone who has worked at a vet clinic likely knows the nightmare called PARVO. Canine parvovirus is an extremely contagious viral disease that attacks white blood cells, can cause permanent damage to the heart, and is often fatal, even after expensive treatments. But thanks to geese, puppies may have a light at the end of the tunnel… and not that light!

While working on treatments for geese with West Nile virus, researchers at Avianax discovered that antibodies harvested from the yolks of goose eggs could be purified, put back into other birds, and effectively treat the animals.

Naturally, their next step was… saving puppies, of course! Incredibly, this new drug can work in as quickly as two days against parvovirus. So far, early tests are showing a 90% cure rate, and at a projected $75 a dose, this could be a game-changer! Trials will run through the fall of 2014, and the hope is that this treatment could be on the market by spring of 2015.

Avianax has also realized that these antibodies could potentially make a difference when it comes to treating rabies, dengue fever, bird flu, and some kinds of cancer. Human trials are considerably more expensive and time-consuming, so future studies are definitely further down the road, but this is something worth keeping an eye on!

http://bostonherald.com/business/business_markets/2014/06/trial_results_promising_for_curing_puppies_parvo

A single-shot cure for cancer

healthcareThat’s the goal: “a single-shot cure for cancer.” For Stacy Erholtz, a 49-year-old cancer patient battling multiple myeloma, a heavy dose of the measles virus put her in complete remission!

Mayo Clinic researchers injected patients with an engineered measles virus that is similar to the measles vaccine. But this wasn’t your normal vaccine; the virus was engineered to make it toxic only to cancer cells, and Stacy was given enough to vaccinate 10 million people.

The measles virus makes cancer cells group together and explode. This gets rid of the cancer cells and triggers the immune system to react against them. For Stacy, it worked. One other patient in the trial experienced a reduction in bone marrow cancer and tumor growth, but cancer returned after 9 months.

While success in one patient doesn’t prove that researchers have found this single-shot cure, it’s definitely a proof of concept. The virus killed cancer cells while leaving other body cells unharmed, and while cancer patients have been treated with viruses in the past, this is the first time that a patient with full-body cancer has experienced remission after virotherapy.

Virotherapy has been tested in animal models in the hope of developing treatments for breast cancer, endometrial cancer, gallbladder cancer, and even canine cancer. A single-shot cure for cancer could revolutionize treatments for our loved ones and pets! Read more about this particular study here:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/15/health/measles-cancer-remission/

Fertility may be affected by a woman’s perception of her environment

Beautiful pregnant woman relaxing in the parkIs it possible that a woman’s fertility is affected by her perception of the safety of her environment? Researchers are trying to figure out how to answer this question, and you’re not going to believe which tiny animals are helping them. Roundworms!

Roundworms reproduce by themselves by carrying around their own sperm AND eggs. And it turns out that when the worm’s environment is favorable (enough nutrition, not too much competition), they reproduce better. A chemical trail from the worm’s nose to its ovaries ramps up production of prostaglandins, which help guide the sperm to the eggs.

Roundworms are a good model for this type of research, because the worm’s skin is transparent, so sperm motility is easy to observe. Now, researchers are expanding on these studies by looking at prostaglandin levels in human patients to see if they’re correlated with fertility. But the thought that smell and the perception of the environment could alter fertility is interesting, and it could possibly lead to therapies that could help humans and animals with fertility problems!

Research in these worms indicates that the production of prostaglandins might be possible in more ways than previously thought, and in addition to possibly answering some questions about fertility, roundworms might be able to give researchers insight into different targets for pain management and cancer treatments. Read more about it here:

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-05-roundworms-fertility.html

Bone marrow on a chip could revolutionize treatments!

iStock_000015264919SmallBone marrow is a complex tissue that, until now, could only be studied in living animals. Recently, Harvard researchers created “bone marrow on a chip” by reproducing the structure and function of bone marrow. Past efforts involving combining cells on an artificial surface have failed, because bone marrow is extremely complex. So researchers turned to animals for help. By creating a framework of bone powder and implanting it under the skin of an animal, the animal’s body did the work for them and created an impressive bone and marrow structure!

The engineered bone marrow could help researchers assess potential side effects of cancer treatments, observe the effects of drugs to prevent radiation poisoning, and even generate blood cells. It may even be possible to grow human bone marrow in immune-deficient mice!

Researchers work with animals because they often give more accurate information than cell cultures and computer simulations alone. From vaccine development to cancer treatments to joint replacement surgery, animals have been- and continue to be- extremely important in the effort to save lives. And now, animals are helping researchers create better alternatives, which could ultimately reduce the number of animals needed in research without compromising research outcomes. Good news for everyone!

Read more here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140505104433.htm