Auburn veterinary researchers developing new therapy for treating bone cancer

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation has awarded Dr. Bruce Smith, director of the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer, a two-year grant totaling $118,848 to test a new therapy for treating bone cancer in dogs. The research could one day be broadened to include many other kinds of cancer – and possibly cancer in people.

The treatment consists of a virus normally used as a hepatitis vaccine in dogs that has been modified to only make copies of itself inside bone cancer cells. The virus ruptures the cancer cells, releasing thousands of copies of the virus from the tumor cells, killing them.

“By using this approach, we turn the cancer cell into a ‘factory’ that produces more virus,” said Smith. “You could say that we help the cancer cell become an agent of its own death.”

Bone cancer, or osteosarcoma, accounts for around 5 percent of tumors in dogs. More than 90 percent of dogs with this tumor have had tumor cells migrate into their lungs, creating what are known as micrometastases, at the time of diagnosis.

“This therapy attacks those metastases and will hopefully eliminate them or make them more sensitive to chemotherapy,” said Smith.

The Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer, or AURIC,  was founded in 2012 to accelerate translation of cancer innovation from the laboratory to the clinic. AURIC embodies “One Medicine” – the concept that sees human and animal health as a single field where discoveries in one species advance health in both species.

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