Sasha

At the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Nicola Mason, an Assistant Professor of Medicine in collaboration with Advaxis Inc. is currently evaluating the first vaccine for canine osteosarcoma. This approach harnesses the power of the dog’s immune system, “training” it to seek out and destroy cancer cells that remain after amputation and chemotherapy. In a phase I clinical trial, dogs are being recruited to determine the safety and efficacy of a genetically modified Listeria vaccine to prolong survival.

Just like many other students this January, Sasha is returning to Penn! Still as happy as ever, this 12 and a half year old American bulldog runs, jumps, swims and catches frisbees – all on three legs! Sasha was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a highly aggressive bone cancer in March of 2012. The prognosis for this disease is guarded at best and dogs that undergo amputation followed by chemotherapy, the standard of care for this disease, have a median survival of only 1 year. Most dogs die as a result of cancer metastases (spread) to their lungs or other bones.

Sasha was the first of six dogs that have received the experimental vaccine so far. All dogs tolerated the vaccine well with no significant short or long-term side effects. To date one dog that received a low dose of the vaccine has developed lung metastases. All other dogs, including Sasha, remain free of cancer at this time.

“Although it is too early yet to determine whether the vaccine prolongs overall survival in patients with this highly aggressive disease, we can conclude that the vaccine appears to be safe and well tolerated. This is a very important first step” Mason says. “Given the safety of the vaccine at the current doses used, we are extending the study and continuing to enroll patients.”

This study represents a very exciting new approach to the treatment of a disease in which the abysmal prognosis has remained unchanged for several decades. Mason expects that within the next year they will have preliminary data that will determine the merit of this approach for delaying or preventing metastatic disease. If they confirm safety and demonstrate efficacy in this group of dogs Mason plans to extend the studies into a phase II clinical trial in a larger group of dogs that should begin in the Fall of 2013.

More information regarding the study can be found at:

http://www.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers-initiatives/canine-cancer-studies