Osteosarcoma: Vaccines and other Immunotherapy Treatments
New immunotherapy treatments may give dogs a chance at a cure. More efficacy data is needed.
For dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma, even with surgery and chemotherapy, the median survival is typically less than 12 months. Cancer often ends up spreading, and we desperately need better ways to combat this disease.
Much research is needed to figure out how to prevent metastasis after surgery and chemotherapy.
Or better yet, we need a therapy that lets the dog keep his leg, avoid chemotherapy, and be cured. After all, many dogs are not a candidate for surgery for various reasons.
Now, it’s been known for decades that the dog’s immune system could play a major role in combating osteosarcoma and other forms of malignant sarcomas.
For example, vets have reported that canine osteosarcoma patients who experienced post-surgery infection (and activation of the immune system) enjoyed longer survival times.
What makes immunotherapy particularly attractive is that it gives some patients a chance at long-term survival compared to conventional treatments like chemotherapy.
At a recent scientific presentation, the University of Pennsylvania Professor Dr. Nicki Mason - one of the leaders in veterinary cancer immunotherapy - described how thanks to immunotherapy, the word "cure" is now actually starting to be used by cancer researchers and oncologists.
When I was helping my dog fight osteosarcoma several ago, I could find only one experimental immunotherapy in a clinical trial. And that trial had stopped enrolling new patients.
Today, thankfully, there are more options.
These treatments are accessible because they have conditional regulatory approval, or as part of a pilot trial. Some of the drugs can be ordered off-label. Please talk to your veterinarian about these options.
1. ELIAS Animal Health Immunotherapy
What is it? Combines autologous vaccine and infusion of dog’s own activated T-cells (called adoptive cell therapy) Pilot trial shows very long survival time for roughly half of the patient dogs.
Locations: Veterinary clinics in multiple states
Anything else? We don't know if a trial is still running covering the cost of the treatment, or all treatment costs must be borne by pet parents. Let us know if you find out!
More information: https://eliasanimalhealth.com/
2. Yale Canine Cancer EGFR/HER2 Vaccine
What is it? A vaccine that trains the immune system so that antibodies can target proteins (EGFR and HER2) that are abnormally over-expressed in many tumor cells. It has had success extending survival times and reversing metastasis in some canine patients.
Data: Early study data has been published but only up to 12 months. Data for metastatic cancer patients is not published. Hemangiosarcoma data for a very small number of patients has been shared. Data comparing outcomes for patients with and without amputation has also been shared.
Locations: This study is re-opening slowly. First in Seattle and WSU, then additional locations in the US. See this page for the most recent information and sign up for updates.
Anything else? The team has formed a company called Therajan to commercialize the vaccine.
More information: https://www.ccralliance.org/yale-status
What is it? A drug that stimulates the immune system with active ingredients consisting of non-pathogenic bacterial cell wall fraction and nucleic acid.
Data: A small published study with osteosarcoma patients.
Contact: (613) 308-9788 or [email protected]
Locations: Anywhere in North America. Contact them about other countries.
Anything else? Immunocidin is fully approved by the USDA for mammary tumors. But there has been a growing number of studies investigating safety and efficacy with other types of cancer including osteosarcoma, transitional cell carcinoma, lymphoma, and hemangiosarcoma. Several successful case studies have been reported. For example, we recently interviewed a mom of a dog with osteosarcoma who is 12 months post-diagnosis, with the help of chemotherapy and Immunocidin (but no surgery).
Contact Novavive and speak with Dr. Miriam Cervantes if you'd like to learn about their small osteosarcoma pilot trial. Immunocidin will be donated if you dog is enrolled in the study. But without becoming part of the study, your vet can order Immunocidin if he/she thinks it might help.
More information: https://www.novavive.ca/canine-research
4. Torigen Vaccine
Data: None specifically for osteosarcoma patients. Some published results for metastatic hemangiosarcoma but we have not seen any data for osteosarcoma patients. Please let us know if you find some.
Contact: 860-519-9956 or https://www.torigen.com/contact-us
Location: Anywhere in the US. Make sure to contact them before surgery.
More information: https://www.torigen.com/
5. Oral Drug Combination: Propranolol, Losartan, Toceranib
What is it? A combination of repurposed drugs, high-dose losartan, propranolol, and Palladia ( or toceranib) may stop immunosuppressive cells from being drawn into the tumor microenvironment.
Data: Several publications including https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9835010/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8866227/ Prof Dow's paper describes a glioma study, but the same strategy may also help osteosarcoma patients.
Contact: Ask your oncologist. These drugs can be ordered by a vet. Does not require being in a clinical trial.
Location: Anywhere in the US.
More information: email [email protected] and we will share what we have gathered, or contact the researchers directly.
Anything else? In his fascinating talk at the Veterinary Cancer Society meeting in 2022, Prof Steven Dow stressed that one drug on its own does not have an impact - but combined together in double or triple combinations, one sees beneficial effects with metastatic osteosarcoma. Also, they the combination may synergize with other immunostimulatory therapies such as cancer vaccines. Also, Prof Cheryl London has been studying the combination of Losartan, Toceranib, and another drug called Ladarixin (which can keep immune-suppressive neutrophils from the tumor microenvironment). But unfortunately, Ladarixin is only available to canine patients who participate in her trial in Massachusetts.
6. ARDENT Animal Health (previously called Medivet Biologics)Vaccine
What is it? Autologous vaccine created from dog’s own tumor cells.
Data: None specifically for osteosarcoma. But this paper by Yannelli et al. describes their early study.
Locations: Possibly anywhere in the US but contact them via their website.
More information: http://ardentanimalhealth.com/canine-cancer/
OTHER IMMUNOTHERAPY STUDIES
Here are additional single-location clinical studies where a canine patient may be able to receive immunotherapy treatment.
For the most up-to-date list of studies, do a search in the AVMA animal health studies database:
1. Baltimore, MD
Johns Hopkins University
What is it? Cryoablation combined with immunotherapy (STING AGONIST)
Data: None yet.
Contact: [email protected]
Here’s summary of their clinical trial.
More details can be read here.
2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
What is it? Evaluate the safety and activity of a STING agonist compound to stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells in dogs with solid tumors
Data: None yet
Contact: June Chiango, ,[email protected]
3. St Paul, Minnesota
University of Minnesota
What is it? This treatment combines oncolytic virotherapy combined with dual checkpoint blockade for patients with metastatic osteosarcoma. This trial is evaluating a new combination therapy using a genetically modified Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV-IFNß-NIS, or "VSV") plus a new molecule that increases anti-tumor immunity, called onco-immune accelerator or "ONIx". Dogs will not receive additional chemotherapy while they are enrolled in the study, but they will be eligible to add chemotherapy or pursue other treatments if their tumors grow and cause signs of illness while on the METEOR protocol.
Data: None yet
Contact: Andrea Chehadeh, ,[email protected]
4. Fort Collins, Colorado
Colorado State University
What is it? The purpose of this trial is to determine whether the 3-drug combination of Palladia, losartan, and defactinib can give better cancer control in dogs with metastatic osteosarcoma than the original 2-drug combination (Palladia/losartan). A secondary goal of this study is to assess gene expression in a type of immune cell called macrophages present in the lungs of dogs with metastatic OS. This will be accomplished through a procedure called bronchoalveolar lavage.
Data: None yet
Contact: CSU Oncology Clinical Trials, csuoncologytrials@colostate
Anything else? This team (together with Tufts' Prof London) earlier looked at different combinations of Palladia, losartan, propranolol and ladarixin for dogs with metastatic osteosarcoma. (See above)
This blog is published for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Always seek guidance from your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s health or medical condition.