Stephen Johnston, PhD, a scientist, professor at the School of Life Sciences, and director of the Biodesign Center for Innovations in Medicine, developed the vaccine over a span of 12 years. He says his goal is to change the way veterinarians treat cancer by preventing it before it can start.
Over the course of the five-year study, 800 dogs will either be given the vaccine or a placebo and will be monitored. The University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Veterinary Medicine, Colorado State University (CSU) and University of California (UC), Davis are also participating in the trial.
“We’re testing a totally novel way of creating an anticancer immune response,” says David Vail, DVM, DACVIM (oncology), professor and board-certified oncologist at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine. “The holy grail would be to prevent cancer as opposed to waiting for it to start and then treating it.”
The vaccine is designed to target common canine cancers, including lymphoma, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mastocytomas.
At the beginning, two sets of vaccines will be given every two weeks and then annually. The dogs will live at home and will be checked two to three times a year for the duration of the trial to monitor them for the development of any cancers.
“We should know as soon as two years from now whether or not we see the vaccine is having an effect,” Dr. Johnston says.