In the other, the pair is investigating whole lung irradiation for dogs with osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that produces immature bone.
“Doctors used to do whole lung irradiation on children before chemotherapy existed for tumors that arise from the bone; they quit because of the long-term damage the radiation would cause to the lungs in these children and then chemotherapy became the best treatment,” she said. “But our dogs are often geriatric. They're not going to have the long-term side effects that happen many years later. They're still dying of this disease, so we are investigating how well whole lung irradiation, along with chemotherapy, may improve outcomes for these dogs.”
In another of her clinical trials, Wilson-Robles is working with the Texas A&M chemistry department to test an older drug previously used in humans for its effect on canine lymphoma.
“This drug was used for decades to treat tuberculosis in people, and researchers found that it actually enhances the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy or radiation therapy,” she said. “We are using it right now in lymphoma. Our hope is to use it in a much broader variety of things, the thought being if we use this drug in conjunction with our standard of care, do we improve outcomes by making them more sensitive to the drugs at hand?
“Hopefully, it will lead to a veterinary product and will be translatable,” she said. “Preliminary data from our collaborators showed that it makes breast cancer and prostate cancer cell lines more susceptible to radiation and chemotherapy, so our hope is that by demonstrating this in an actual spontaneous cancer model, things will move forward on the human side, as well.”
Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles and Otis
On the diagnostics side, Wilson-Robles is working to develop a screening test that will help veterinarians better determine if an animal has cancer or inflammation, or neither condition.
“First we need to have a general idea of what to look for with each condition, so we’re simply collecting blood from healthy animals, those with cancer, and those with inflammation,” she said. “It’s not the be-all, end-all, but it would help us figure out which way to go when we come to that fork in the road during treatment.”
The next step is creating tests for specific cancers.
While Wilson-Robles’s clinical trials span different forms of treatment, they all share the same goal.
“The biggest thing is that we hope to make things better. We get sick of losing patients, of seeing that 3-year-old dog that we know is probably going to die a year from now from a cancer that has caused so many other deaths,” she said. “We realize there may never be a cure-all for cancer. Maybe instead of completely obliterating cancer, we can turn it into a chronic disease.
“If there are things we can do to at least help push cancer research along a little bit so that we all get better at treating it, we'd all like to be a part of that in some way.”
Owners interested in learning about opportunities to make a difference in the lives of animals and humans, alike, can learn more about ongoing trials at https://vetmed.tamu.edu/clinical-trials/.
Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of CVM Today.
For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Interim Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; firstname.lastname@example.org; 979-862-4216