A New Drug is Killing Canine Brain Tumors

Published 07/16 2013 04:45PM

Updated 07/16 2013 05:46PM

Every year more than 13-thousand Americans will be diagnosed with a glioblastoma, the worst kind of brain tumor. There's no cure and few treatments. On average, people only have 15 months to live after diagnosis. Now, man's best friend could hold the key to helping these patients.
Petey had a large brain tumor, called a glioma, almost cut his life short a couple of years ago.
"They said he's basically got less than two months to live," Alexander Frame, Petey's owner, told Ivanhoe.
Petey's owner enrolled him in a clinical trial testing a drug already used to treat colon cancer in people. Veterinarian Simon Platt pumped the drug directly over the area in the brain where Petey's tumor was removed.
"It tries to block the tumor feeding on the rest of the body," Simon Platt BVM&S MRCVS, Professor Neurology & Neurosurgery Service, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, told Ivanhoe. 
It stops the tumor's "fingers" growing all throughout the brain, from coming back.
Petey's last MRI shows no tumor. Because canine tumors are very similar to those found in people, Dr. Platt hopes the same will happen to people suffering from the same types of tumors. 
"We thought that's great, we can help dogs out. If that's possible, then we could go to the next step and actually help people out," Dr. Platt said.
Although the drug needs more testing before it can be tried out in humans, it's done wonders for Petey.
"At this point I'm hopeful that he'll have a full life," Alexander said.
Dr. Platt received a three year grant from the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. The next clinical trial will include around 15 dogs, and if the results are as promising as those from the first trial, human testing could be right around the corner. 

BACKGROUND:  Glioblastomas are tumors that arise from astrocytes, the star-shaped cells that make up the "glue-like" or supportive tissue of the brain.  These tumors are usually cancerous because the cells reproduce quickly and they are supported by a large network of blood vessels.  They are generally found in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain.  However, they can also be found on the spinal cord or anywhere in the brain.  There are two types of glioblastomas, primary and secondary.  Primary tumors form and make their presence known quickly.  It is the most aggressive and common type.  Secondary tumors have a longer, slower growth history, but are still very aggressive.  They represent about ten percent of glioblastomas and are usually found in people 45 and younger.  Glioblastomas represent about 17 percent of all primary brain tumors.  They affect more men than women and the risk increases with age.  (Source: http://www.abta.org/understanding-brain-tumors/types-of-tumors/glioblastoma.html)

SYMPTOMS:  The most common symptoms are usually caused by increased pressure in the brain.  They can include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and headache.  Patients can develop a variety of other symptoms, like weakness on one side of the body, memory and speech difficulties, and visual changes.  (Source: http://www.abta.org/understanding-brain-tumors/types-of-tumors/glioblastoma.html)

TREATMENT:  Glioblastoma can be difficult to treat because the tumors contain so many different types of cells.  Some cells can respond well to certain therapies, while others may not be affected at all.  The first step in treating glioblastoma is a procedure to make a diagnosis, relieve pressure on the brain, and safely remove as much tumor as possible.  Glioblastomas have finger-like tentacles, making it very difficult to remove it.  Radiation and chemotherapy may be used to slow the growth of tumors.  (Source: http://www.abta.org/understanding-brain-tumors/types-of-tumors/glioblastoma.html)

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc., awarded the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and Emory University a $119,000 grant over three years to test a newly developed experimental drug to treat dogs with naturally occurring brain tumors, following surgical removal of those tumors.  The goal of the research is to find therapies humans can use.  The tumors in the dogs are called spontaneous gliomas, which are very similar to human brain tumors.  Simon Platt, BVM&S, a Professor of Veterinary Neurology at UGA, performed the surgery and diagnosed Petey with a glioma.  After the surgery, an investigational drug was directly infused into the glioma for three days.  The experimental drug was developed in the Winship Cancer Institute Brain Tumor Nanotechnology Laboratory of Costas Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine.  It is FDA-approved monoclonal antibody known as cetuximab, attached to an iron-oxide magnetic nanoparticle. 
"We have translated this agent to canines with spontaneous gliomas to study its safety and feasibility," Dr. Hadjipanayis was quoted as saying.  "By targeting the same receptor in canine gliomas that is over-expressed in human brain cancer, known as glioblastoma (GBM), we hope to have a clearer picture of the safety and therapeutic efficacy of the agent." (Source: http://www.news.emory.edu/stories/2013/01/canine_brain_tumor_trial/)


Simon Platt BVM&S MRCVS
Dipl. ACVIM (Neurology) Dipl. ECVN
Professor Neurology & Neurosurgery Service
Department of Small Animal Medicine & Surgery
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Georgia


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