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U of M cancer drug shows promise with dogs; human trials may be next

Researchers tested the drug on a canine cancer very similar to a human one called angiosarcoma.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota say a cancer drug developed on campus has shown "breakthrough" results in trials on dogs. They're hopeful it will lead to a version of the drug that can be tested on humans with a similarly rare and aggressive cancer.

The study published in a scientific journal Monday says dogs with an incurable cancer called canine HSA had improved survival rates when they were treated with the new drug.

Jamie Modiano, a co-author of the study who teaches at both the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Masonic Cancer Center, says “This is likely the most significant advance in the treatment of canine HSA in the last three decades.”

The canine cancer

HSA is a deadly cancer that invades a dog's blood vessels. It leads to tumors that can show up in any of several organs, the National Canine Cancer Foundation explains, especially the spleen, heart, skin, or liver.

The U of M says normally half of the dogs diagnosed with HSA die within six months. For dogs in the trial of the drug called eBAT, the six month survival rate was 70 percent and five of the 23 dogs lived for 15 months.

The dogs were of various breeds, both large and small, and all of them had HSA of the spleen, the university says.

The human cancer: angiosarcoma

The university's researchers (including the study's lead author, Antonella Borgatti, of the veterinary college and senior author Daniel Vallera of the medical school and the Masonic Cancer Center) say canine HSA is remarkably similar to the human cancer angiosarcoma.

Both have usually spread before they're diagnosed and so the survival time is very short.

A sarcoma is a kind of cancer that grows in connective tissues like tendons, cartilage, or nerves.

Angiosarcoma – just like HSA – attacks the blood vessels.

The U of M says the results of the eBAT trials on dogs make a strong case for translating the drug to a form that can be tried on humans.

“This drug was invented, developed, manufactured, and tested and showed positive results at the University of Minnesota. We would also like this drug to achieve positive outcomes for humans here,” Modiano said.

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