University of Guelph Researchers Get Funding for Canine Cancer Study

Dr. Brenda Coomber, the principal investigator, will work with Toronto-based Rna Diagnostics to study dogs with advanced lymphoma.

Researchers at the University of Guelph have received a $100,000 grant from Ontario Centers of Excellence (OCE) to further their work to improve cancer therapy for dogs.

Brenda Coomber, BSc, Ph.D., the principal investigator, will work with Rna Diagnostics of Toronto to study dogs with advanced lymphoma. This project builds on her research begun in 2013 with the company.

“Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that all dogs with lymphoma get the best treatments we have available,” said Dr. Coomber, a biomedical sciences professor in the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and co-director of U of G’s Institute for Comparative Cancer Investigation. “Since lymphoma in dogs is very similar to lymphoma in humans, the results of this study may also improve our understanding and treatment of human cancer.”

Certain molecules called biomarkers can help predict disease outcome or response to therapy in order to improve treatment. Rna Diagnostics has developed a novel biomarker test called an RNA disruption assay (RDA), intended to pinpoint cancer patients unlikely to respond to chemotherapy, according to the university.

Coomber used RDA previously at OVC’s Mona Campbell Center for Animal Cancer to assess early response to conventional drugs in dogs treated for lymphoma.

Typically, treating canine lymphoma with chemotherapy involves multiple rounds of four drugs. In about four out of five dogs, this treatment leads to complete cancer remission, according to the university. But about half of dogs with complete remission will suffer a relapse within six months and will need new treatment.

“This time we’ll be studying dogs that have lymphoma and did not respond to treatment, or those who responded and were in remission but have now relapsed,” Coomber said.

Learning whether RDA can predict early response to chemotherapy among dogs with advanced lymphoma might spare patients from ineffective drug treatments and improve outcomes, she said.

Coomber will also analyze genes in these samples to identify other changes that might predict response to therapy for advanced canine lymphoma.

The OCE funding comes from its Voucher for Innovation and Productivity II fund, which supports collaborations between universities and Ontario companies.

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