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DNA-based vaccine triples survival for dogs with melanoma

NEW YORK April 8, 2003 The options for treating advanced melanoma are limited - regardless of whether the patient is a dog or a human. Because this deadly cancer is virtually resistant to chemotherapy and radiation in its late stages, new approaches are being investigated including vaccines that harness the immune system. For nine dogs that naturally developed canine malignant melanoma, treatment with a new DNA-based vaccine more than tripled their median survival from an expected 90 days to an average of 389 days.

The results of this collaboration between the dogs' veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center (AMC) and researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where the DNA-based vaccine had undergone pre-clinical testing are reported in the April issue of the Clinical Cancer Research. The vaccine continues to be studied at AMC. A parallel clinical trial began last fall at MSKCC for people with high risk of melanoma recurrence.

"Most medicines that we use to treat animals are the same as those given to humans," explained Philip J. Bergman DVM, MS, PhD, Head of the Donaldson-Atwood Cancer Clinic and the Flaherty Comparative Oncology Laboratory at The Animal Medical Center and the study's first author. "This vaccine was first tested in the laboratory at MSKCC and then given to dogs with melanoma after receiving approval from the United States Department of Agriculture and the AMC's own Institutional Review Board. We felt it was useful to see if immunotherapy might help these very sick dogs with advanced melanoma since the response rates for standard chemotherapy were extremely poor with no evidence of improved survival."

Canine malignant melanoma (CMM) is the most common oral cancer in dogs and accounts for one out of twenty cancer diagnoses. It is highly aggressive, occurring spontaneously in the mouth, nail bed and foot pad. CMM is most successfully treated in its early stage by surgery. However, the prognosis is not good if ther
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Contact: Joanne Nicholas
media@mskcc.org
212-639-3573
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
9-Apr-2003


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