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Veterinary Medicine

Cats & dogs needed for cancer, IBD treatment studies

August 5, 2009

Research projects underway at Colorado State University are looking for cats and dogs to participate in important clinical studies. Dog are needed to participate in research to help find a new way to treat cancer in animals and people. Cats are sought to study the impact of probiotics on inflammatory bowel disease.

Cancer Center looks at new way to treat cancer

A study at the Animal Cancer Center is investigating the impact of a drug on cells that suppress the immune system and allow cancer tumors to grow. Initial results in mice and dogs show that the drug can reverse suppression of the immune system and halt tumor growth in dogs and, in some cases, even shrink tumors.

Safety of new drug delivery

Researchers are enrolling dogs who meet specific entry criteria into clinical studies designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a new drug delivery approach. The class of drugs being evaluated, called bisophosphonates, has been used for years to diminish bone pain in bone cancer patients. However, the studies at the Animal Cancer Center are looking at bisphosphonate drugs in combination with liposomes to target cells that suppress the immune system around specific types of tumors.

“To date, nearly a dozen dogs have been treated in the study. The tumor response rate -- shrinkage of the tumor or suppression of growth -- has been very encouraging,” said Dr. Steve Dow, a researcher and veterinarian in the Animal Cancer Center.

New way of fighting tumors

“We believe the results will provide important insights into a new way of fighting many different kinds of tumors. If the results continue to be promising, they may help treat animals and humans with many different types of tumors,” Dow said.

For the current clinical studies, Dow is working with Drs. Scott Hafeman, Amanda Guth and. Joe Sottnik in the Animal Cancer Center. The team is looking for dogs with soft tissue sarcomas and malignant histiocytosis, called MH, to enroll in the clinical trial.

Benefits of participation

Dogs that meet certain criteria can be enrolled in the studies. The soft tissue sarcoma study pays $500 toward the cost of treatment, such as surgery, at the end of the study. The study consists of six treatments over a time frame that ranges seven to 13 weeks, depending upon the treatment option that is selected. Dogs enrolled in the MH study are eligible to receive the drug at no cost, though all other charges are supported by the owners.

To discuss opportunities to enroll in the study, contact the Animal Cancer Center at (970) 221-4535 and talk to Dr. Scott Hafeman.

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Treating feline inflammatory bowel disease

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital is looking for cats to participate in a study of the impact of probiotics on inflammatory bowel disease. The hospital will work with local veterinary clinics to obtain samples for the study from their clients, or welcome appointments at CSU's VTH with cats that may participate in the study.

A number of products are on the market claiming to treat the condition, but little research exists into whether or not probiotics help the diseases in cats and, if so, which probiotics are most effective. Researchers also will look at the impact of the probiotics on intestinal cells. Cats must meet certain criteria to qualify for the study, which is led by Dr. Craig Webb, a small animal veterinarian at the hospital.

Treatment, time commitment

A series of stool and blood samples before, during and after treatment are needed for the study. Study participants will receive the probiotics for the study and complete stool and blood test analysis of their animal for free. Owners who want to participate in the study on an advanced level will need to maintain their cat on a probiotic for several weeks after which veterinarians will perform small intestinal endoscopy and biopsy tissues at a significantly reduced cost.

Cat owners must be committed to the study and give the probiotic according to schedule. The probiotic is mixed with food one time a day.

Signs of feline IBD

Signs of feline inflammatory bowel disease include diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss. Cats of any age can have inflammatory bowel disease, but it is more common in middle-aged and older cats. Chronic diarrhea and vomiting can eventually lead to debilitation and euthanasia if the pet does not respond to treatment. The cause of the disease is not known and as of yet there is no cure.

The disease can sometimes be treated or improved with dietary changes or with drugs with anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive properties or antibiotics. To obtain more information about participating in the study, contact Dr. Webb at (970) 297-4431 or e-mail

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Contact: Dell Rae Moellenberg
Phone: (970) 491-6009