A 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.
Bone 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!
New research helps explain the extraordinary strength of human bones, and the answers are in the form of goo! It turns out that your bones are made up of a mix of tiny crystal-like fragments and molecules of citrate. A citrate molecule bonds to calcium, creates a sticky fluid when mixed with water, and acts as a kind of shock absorber for the bone crystals.
And your bones depend on that gooey shock absorber every day! Regardless of your body weight, your bones certainly take on quite a strain every time you jump, twist, run, or even walk. Without citrate, the layers of calcium phosphate in your bones fuse into clumps, and the bone becomes brittle and more likely to shatter.
This new understanding of the role of citrate ‘goo’ as it relates to bone strength will hopefully help researchers understand some of the mechanisms of osteoporosis and brittle bone disease. Past studies in bone structure and strength and new research in treating brittle bone disease in children have relied on animal studies and clinical trials, and hopefully researchers can utilize all resources at their disposal to make the most of this new discovery!
An opportunity for dogs to help people AND other dogs? It’s a win-win situation. It turns out that the biology of the most common kind of bone tumor in dogs (osteosarcoma) is that same as the biology of these tumors in children. By working with dogs with bone tumors, researchers can try different kinds of drugs in an attempt to increase the dog’s lifespan. While there’s no guarantee that a drug that works on these dogs will work in a human patient, researchers can get more information about the way the drug works on this particular cancer. This information will help them make a more educated guess as to whether or not it would work in a human. And while it would definitely be amazing if they could translate their results into humans, at the very least, they’re working hard to find an appropriate treatment for dogs with this disease!
In some research studies, animals are specifically bred for the particular study. In this study, their clinical trial involves pets that already have cancer. It’s estimated that only 5% of dogs with osteosarcoma will live past the age of 2. Awesome research- check it out!