Nobel laureates have demonstrated how valuable animal research is in the quest to cure cancer, but humans aren’t the only animals who benefit from animal research, writes FBR President Matthew R. Bailey. Researchers are closing in on effective treatments for canine hemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma as well as feline oral cancer, to name but a few, and those treatments might be modified to treat human versions of those cancers.
The road to approval for medications to be used in humans is long and littered with failures, but essential steps like in vitro testing and then testing in live animal models help ensure only safe, effective treatments make their way to pharmacies and hospitals. “If your drug doesn’t work in your animal model, you need to go back to the drawing board,” says Jaime Modiano, a veterinarian and oncology and comparative medicine researcher at the University of Minnesota. “But if it works the way you expected, your idea has legs. It gives you a reason to move forward, a reason to believe that it could work in humans.”
Oysters, clams and mussels are sickened by viruses and bacteria just like people, and they could be useful models studying human influenza, cancer and bone regeneration, researchers reported in Developmental & Comparative Immunology. Bivalves don’t produce antibodies but are able to fight off sickness — clams can even cure themselves of cancer — and studying bivalve immunity could lead to alternatives for antibiotics for humans and animals, researchers say.
Mutations in the NRAS gene are associated with aggressive, treatment-resistant melanoma, and researchers may have identified a novel therapeutic strategy. The STK19 enzyme activates NRAS, and blocking the enzyme’s activity prevented the formation of tumors in skin cell cultures and reduced tumor formation in mice, researchers reported in Cell.
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers tested rapamycin, an antirejection drug given to liver transplant patients, in liver cancer mouse models and found that the drug shrank the tumors, and the addition of a MET inhibitor nearly wiped out the cancers. The findings were reported in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Researchers used stem cells from mice to grow anatomically sound kidneys in rat embryos, laying the groundwork for a technique that could one day be used to grow organs for transplant in humans. Next steps include optimizing the technique in rats and then exploring transplant of the stem cell-derived organs, as well as studying the approach in other species. The work was published in Nature Communications.
The NIH issued a five-year, $11.5 million grant to Louisiana State University to establish a lung biology and disease research center at the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine. The first phase of the work will fund formal mentoring and research projects for junior investigators, followed by phases meant to strengthen the center’s research infrastructure and sustain collaborative research.
An immunotherapy based on autologous canine osteosarcoma cells resulted in remission for more than 400 days after surgery, compared with 270 days for dogs in a different study treated with chemotherapy, researchers reported at the Veterinary Cancer Society Annual Conference. The vaccines stimulate anti-tumor lymphocytes, and researchers say the results could translate to a human bone cancer immunotherapy.
Veterinary cardiologists Amara Estrada, Ryan Fries and Nancy Morris are undertaking a long-term genetic study of dilated cardiomyopathy in Doberman pinschers, with funding from the Doberman Pinscher Club of America. The trio have been studying DCM in the breed for nearly a decade and have identified important questions the study will try to answer.
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The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) is the nation’s oldest and largest non-profit dedicated to improving human and animal health by promoting public understanding and support for biomedical research. Our mission is to educate people about the essential role animal research plays in the quest for medical advancements, treatments and cures for both people and animals.