UQ PhD candidate and veterinarian Moira Brennan said the vaccine was in the early stages of testing and had apparently worked for its first patient, a dog with an inoperable terminal mast cell tumour.
“The treatment, which stimulates an immune response in the tumour, has been tolerated exceedingly well in the first dog trialled – a rottweiler named Jackson,” Brennan said.
“We were pleased that Jackson’s tumour, which had failed to respond to traditional chemotherapy, appears to have disappeared as a result of this experimental treatment.”
The long-term effects of the treatment are unknown, and Brennan is recruiting other dogs with untreatable mast cell tumour or malignant melanoma to join this trial.
“What we are hoping to see in future candidates is a slowing or arresting of the growth of the tumour we inject, leading to an increase in the length and quality of life.”
Brennan said the trial involved a one-off injection of a small volume of a potent immune stimulant called Complete Freund’s Adjuvant into the tumour.
“Our treatment stimulates an immune response to the tumour, so we also hope to have a good response in animals where the cancer has spread through the body,” she said.
The trial was designed by Brennan’s PhD supervisor Rachel Allavena, based on a theory developed by Aude Fahrer at Australia’s National University.
Trial participation is free but owners and dogs must be able to travel to UQ’s Gatton Campus for treatment.
Mick and Jenny Lawrence, the owners of seven year old rottweiler Jackson, were devastated when he was diagnosed with an aggressive tumour on his face 12 months ago.
Jackson had chemotherapy but the tumour grew again. The Lawrences stumbled across the study when Jackson was being seen at Veterinary Specialist Services in Springwood where Allavena and Brennan were meeting specialists.
“We were encouraged to hear about the trial and had no other option. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Mrs Lawrence said.
Jackson started the UQ trial in May. After one injection the tumour started to disappear, and there have been no signs of reoccurrence.
“We enjoy every day with him now and he has a quality of life back that he hasn’t had since being diagnosed 12 months ago,” Mrs Lawrence said.
“We hope that more dog owners going through the same sort of experience support the trial so that the potential of this treatment can be fully realised.”