Clinical Trials Offer Novel Cancer Therapies


Every year as many as 350 of 100,000 dogs are affected by cancer. While many treatment options can enhance quality of life, for the most aggressive forms of cancer they may not dramatically increase longevity. That uncertainty, coupled with the possible high cost of cancer therapies, leads many owners to forego treatment.

David Vail, DVM., DACVIM-Oncology, professor of oncology and director of the Center for Clinical Trials and Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, advocates to owners whose dogs are diagnosed with aggressive forms of cancer to consider participating in clinical trials whenever possible.

“By enrolling in clinical trials, these dogs have a chance to achieve better results while also adding to the future welfare of all dogs,” Vail says. “The success rate of new cancer drugs is only about 7 percent partly because the process from ‘laboratory to Labrador’ involves many steps. Clinical trials are the culmination of sometimes years of basic science research. Successful clinical trials may lead to promising new cancer treatments.”

Clinical trials involve three phases:

  • Phase I evaluates the safety and tolerability of a drug in tumor-bearing dogs that have not responded to conventional therapy;
  • Phase II determines efficacy and dosage requirements in affected dogs: and
  • Phase III evaluates the effectiveness of a drug against the current standard of care in random groups of affected dogs

“Among the benefits of taking part in a clinical trial is receiving a treatment modality that may offer more hope than conventional treatment and often at a reduced cost,” Vail says.

Owners of dogs diagnosed with cancer can ask their veterinarian or veterinary oncologist about clinical trials their dog may be eligible for. Owners may also search the Internet with key words, such as “canine cancer clinical trial” or the type of cancer. The Veterinary Cancer Society maintains an online searchable database of many available clinical trials. For information, visit

Owners should realize that enrolling in a clinical trial entails a commitment to follow through with therapy and testing. It is important to understand the commitment before agreeing to participate.

This article orginally appeared in Today's Breeder, a Nestlé Purina Publication Dedicated to the Needs of Canine Enthusiasts.

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