AKC Canine Health Foundation-Funded Research on the Cutting Edge: Canine Osteosarcoma Patients Find Hope in Viral Therapy Treatment


Engineering viruses to attack tumors is not strictly for human use, it is also being used in dogs. In research funded by the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF), Dr. Bruce Smith, VMD, PhD of Auburn University uses biotechnology to convert adenovirus, a common human and canine virus, into a treatment for canine osteosarcoma. Dr. Smith’s research reprograms a canine adenovirus to attack tumor cells and was funded by CHF in 2012, nearly two years prior to the recent clinical trial at the Mayo Clinic for human myeloma patients using the measles virus.

Patients in Dr. Smith’s clinical trial are administered an oncolytic adenovirus specifically engineered to replicate (make copies of itself) in canine osteosarcoma cells. "By engineering a common adenovirus virus to replicate in cancer cells, we can turn that cell into a factory that produces its own destruction," said Dr. Smith. The virus breaks down the cancer cells, reducing or eliminating the metastic lesions and hopefully extending the survival of dogs that receive this treatment. According to Dr. Smith, "Viruses are nature's perfect gene delivery machines. Oncolytic viruses harness this ability to deliver death to cancer cells." The implications for human medicine are profound. Canine osteosarcoma is an aggressive canine bone cancer with poor prognosis and is nearly identical to osteosarcoma in humans.

“CHF strives to fund cutting-edge technology that will prevent, treat and cure canine disease. Novel approaches to treating cancers such as the work done by Dr. Smith moves us forward in giant strides rather than incremental steps, and what seems like high risk science ultimately becomes high reward for dogs and their owners,” said Dr. Shila Nordone, CHF Chief Scientific Officer. “Dr. Smith’s research also has strong implications for humans. By utilizing naturally occurring disease in dogs we can move biomedical research forward more quickly and cost effectively for humans as well.” 

To learn more about Dr. Smith’s virus-based anti-tumor treatment for canine osteosarcoma and to support his research, visit the CHF website. Watch an interview with Dr. Smith discussing his research and the One Medicine approach in this video from Auburn University.

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