Funded by the 2018 Vitale Gala
Sarcomas are cancers of bone and connective tissue. These cancers are not very common in people, but they are no less serious than other, more common cancers. One reason there are few new treatments for sarcoma is that their rarity makes it difficult to obtain material for study. To overcome this, we have studied sarcomas in animals, and especially in pet dogs. Dogs share our environment and their risk to develop cancer is about the same as it is for humans. But unlike people, dogs develop sarcomas very commonly. Over the past twenty years, we have found how sarcomas of dogs are like sarcomas of people. This creates opportunities to develop new sarcoma treatments in dog “patients”. For this project, we are studying how we can activate the immune system to kill sarcomas – and specifically bone cancer. Our strategy starts with a virus that infects and kills cancer cells. Because this allows the immune system to recognize the tumor, we can then add a protein to enhance the potency and duration of this immune response. The idea is that the treatment will eliminate the primary tumors and prevent or delay cancerous spread to other organs. We will test our strategy in the laboratory and in dogs with bone cancer in a clinically realistic setting, which will provide avenues to move our findings more quickly to human patients who will ultimately benefit from this therapy.