Humans to test T-cell treatment that subdued canine lymphoma

Dogs are often loyal and are great companions. Now, they're also trailblazers in cancer research. An innovative new lymphoma treatment helped prolong the lives of dogs with the disease, and it will now be tested in people.

Scientists at Texas A&M and the University of Texas Children's Cancer Hospital in Houston blazed the trail, supported by funding from the AKC Canine Health Foundation.

The researchers took a blood sample from a dog with lymphoma, the most common form of canine cancer. From it, they expanded the T-cells in the blood (white blood cells that fight infection and help control cancer) and then infused them back into the same dog after it completed chemotherapy treatments.

They believed the T-cell infusion to rebuild the dog's immune system would help eliminate any cancer cells left that chemotherapy didn't already kill. Results, according to one of the researchers, were more than promising. They point to a tumor-free survival for the treated dogs, at first remission, nearly 5 times longer than dogs that had just received chemo treatments. (Animal-lovers take note: researchers used safety protocol for the tests similar to those used for people.)

And that's why this research matters to human lymphoma sufferers, as the disease is treatable but hard to cure. It turns out dogs are more similar genetically to humans than mice are. And mice are more often used for preclinical studies. So the canine-tested lymphoma treatment is significant because tumors apparently develop similarly in dogs and humans.

We're encouraged by the trial, although many more tests will be needed--particularly in humans--in order for researchers to see if they can duplicate results. Human trials building on the canine research are forthcoming, the researchers say, as the FDA has approved testing T-cell immunotherapy to treat human lymphoma. As promising as the results may be for dogs, we'll be waiting to see the what happens in human testing.

- here's the release