Innovative vaccine offers canine cancer patients a shot at a longer, happier life

Osteosarcoma is the most common bone cancer to affect dogs. It is a painful and aggressive disease. Affecting more than 10,000 dogs annually, predominantly larger breeds, it kills more than 85 percent within two years.

Nicola Mason, a researcher and veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, is working to put a dent in those figures. Since she was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Carl June, the Perelman School of Medicine researcher behind the breakthrough CAR-T immunotherapy for treating blood cancers, Mason has steadily pushed forward the field of immunotherapy in the veterinary arena.

A new $775,000 grant from the Morris Animal Foundation will help her build on her past successes to test a vaccine that could improve longevity and quality of life for dogs with osteosarcoma. Mason’s team will conduct clinical trials to evaluate a novel immunotherapy treatment which combines a molecule expressed by cancer cells with a modified live form of the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes.

A pilot study demonstrated that this combination elicited a powerful, targeted immune response directed against osteosarcoma cells.

“We know that the traditional standard-of-care treatments we use for osteosarcoma are not effective at eliminating all tumor cells because


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