Colorado State University studying vaccine to help prevent cancer in dogs

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Man’s best friend is on the front lines of something groundbreaking that could ease the anguish of families who have come face to face with cancer.

Even after 10 years, Mary Dolce, will never forget losing her basset hound and best friend, Louie, to cancer.

“I don’t know anybody who has a dog or had dogs that hasn’t been affected by cancer,” Dolce said.

The disease has also been prevalent in her family for years, which makes what’s happening behind the doors of Colorado State University’s Flint Animal Hospital even more meaningful.

“My first husband died of cancer, my mom has had cancer, my sister has had cancer, my dad had cancer, so there’s just a lot to benefit from if this is a successful trial,” Dolce said.

Dolce volunteered her dog, Doc, to be a part of history. He’s one of hundreds of dogs researchers are studying a new vaccine on, with the hope of preventing cancer in dogs and, one day, even humans.

“We’re testing something that is really cutting edge that, if successful, really has the potential to change a lot in terms of human and animal health,” said Dr. Doug Thamm, director of clinical research at Flint Animal Cancer Center.

So far there are 600 healthy dogs in a study being shared with a couple of other universities. Some dogs will receive a vaccine and others a placebo.

“The end point of the study is who gets less cancer? Is it the dogs who get the vaccine? Is it the dogs that get the placebos? We’re hoping that within five years we’re going to actually be able to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to this approach to really know whether it is encouraging enough — that it is something that really should move forward into people,” Thamm said.

For Dolce, she knows her dog could potentially save many lives in the future.

“If the greater good is helped by Doc’s participation, then I’ll feel a little proud, you know?” Dolce said.