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Research / Discovery

Dan Regan aims to halt spread of dog cancers

April 15, 2014
by Jeff Dodge

When dogs get cancer, it commonly spreads to the lungs, but a Colorado State University veterinarian is aiming to change that -- with drugs that already exist.

CSU veterinarian Dan Regan is using a fellowship to study cancer in dogs.And his findings could eventually be applied to humans.

Dan Regan, a resident in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, plans to use a fellowship he recently received from the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation to focus primarily on two common canine cancers: bone cancer, or osteosarcoma, and cancer of the cells lining blood vessels, or hemangiosarcoma. He is one of only five individuals to receive the fellowship this year.

Regan specializes in the study of inflammatory monocytes, cells found in high levels in the blood of humans and dogs when tumors are present. These cells have been shown to play key roles in suppressing anti-tumor immune responses and promoting the spread of cancer. Because of the cost and time involved in developing new anti-cancer drugs, Regan will examine certain existing drugs and their ability to block the migration of monocytes in mice and dogs with tumors. The goal is to identify the best repurposed drug for targeting these cells as a means of treating canine and human patients.

In the case of bone cancer in dogs, he’s already screened and ranked more than 300 existing, FDA-approved compounds. Regan has zeroed in on two that show promise in keeping tumor cells from spreading to the lungs: an anti-hypertension medication used to treat high blood pressure in humans and kidney failure in dogs, and an anti-nausea medication also commonly given to both humans and dogs.

He says the lessons learned from treating canine patients that have naturally occurring tumors could be applied to many types of cancers in humans as well.

Fellowship in its 2nd year

The AKC Canine Health Foundation Clinician-Scientist Fellowship Program was created in 2013 to support the next generation of canine health researchers and sustain future advancements in canine and human health. Since 1995, CHF has provided 16 grants to CSU researchers worth nearly $600,000.

"The Fellows are future leaders within the veterinary profession and they are working to make an impact on canine and human health," said CHF Chief Scientific Officer Shila Nordone. "We must have a healthy and robust veterinary biomedical research community in order to have cutting-edge research; we can't have one without the other."

Regan is in a dual training program at CSU where he will earn board certification in veterinary anatomic pathology and a Ph.D. in immunology. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 2007 and Doctor in Veterinary Medicine in 2011, both from the University of Georgia.

The other recipients of the $12,000 fellowship are Abigail Bertalan of the University of Pennsylvania, Laura Bryan of Texas A&M University, Eva Furrow of the University of Minnesota and Joanne Tuohy of North Carolina State University.