Morris Animal Foundation makes strides in canine cancer treatments, feline parasite vaccinations


More than 100 studies currently being funded for canine and feline research advancement.

Morris Animal Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds animal health research, has released its 2015-2016 species reports, according to a foundation release. There are 70 currently funded clinical trials for canines, and 36 for felines, with areas of study ranging from behavior and cancer to genetics, nutrition, infectious disease and pharmacology and many more. In 2015, advances were made in canine genetic mutation identification, and chronic kidney disease diagnosis, while the potential for a new vaccine for a tick-borne disease is in the works for cats.

Studies by the numbers

Currently funded studies in the canine and feline fields:

Canine: 70 currently funded studies

1 behavior

35 cancer

2 cardiovascular

2 dermatology 

3 endocrine/metabolic

1 gastroenterology

2 general health

3 genetics

2 hematology

1 immunology

3 infectious disease

3 musculoskeletal

4 neurology

1 nutrition

2 pharmacology

5 urinary

Feline: 36 currently funded studies

1 behavior

6 cancer

6 cardiovascular

2 endocrine/metabolic

2 genetics

12 infectious disease

1 nutrition

1 pathology

2 pharmacology

1 reproduction/overpopulation

1 respiratory

1 urinary

In the canine fields of study, highlights include advancements in identifying causal genetic mutations, passive immunotherapy and new diagnostic and monitoring strategies for chronic kidney disease.

Advances in genetics. Being able to identify causal genetic mutations is important for developing screening tests for serious conditions in high-risk breeds, the release states. This year, researchers found a genetic mutation strongly associated with calcium oxalate bladder stone formation in miniature schnauzers, while another study identified a genetic mutation that's involved with subvalvular aortic stenosis in Newfoundland dogs. These findings led to development of breed-specific screenings for the defects.

Novel cancer treatment. Using specially designed antibodies to kill cancer cells, known as passive immunotherapy, has revolutionized lymphoma treatment in humans. Morris Animal Foundation scientists were able to evaluate an antibody immunotherapy combination that was proven to be safe and effective in treating diffuse large B-cell lymphoma in canine cultured cells, the release states. This research builds a platform for clinical trials for dogs with lymphoma.

Earlier diagnosis of CKD. Up to 15 percent of aging dogs are affected by chronic kidney disease, which can be difficult to diagnose in early stages. New research identified urinary biomarkers that help detect different types of renal damage in dogs. Two biomarkers identified are associated with immune complex-mediated glomerulonephritis, which is a manageable disease if caught early, according to the release.

Highlights of the feline report include new approaches to treating feline oral squamous cell carcinoma, development of a treatment strategy for emerging disease, and improvement in the safety of drugs given to cats with heart disease.

Slowing the growth of cancer cells. Squamous cell carcinoma, an aggressive and common oral cancer in felines, often has very short survival time, even with early detection and treatment. Researchers found a targeted anticancer agent suppressed cancer cell replication and spread in cell culture, and interrupted the circuits that promote cancer growth, the release states. Further study of the drug as a potential new treatment strategy for cats is warranted based on those findings.

Strides in vaccination development. Cytauxzoonosis is tick-bourne disease that is emerging and life-threatening to cats caused by Cytauxzoon felis parasite. While there is no vaccine currently, Morris Animal Foundation researchers identified 30 potential C. felis proteins that are attacked by the cat's immune system by using genome sequencing and bioinformatics, according to the release. Each of those proteins represents a potential vaccine candidate against the parasite.

Fewer clots in heart patients. Arterial thromboembolism is a common complication in cats with heart disease. Researchers found that a new oral anticlotting drug, which has shown promise in humans, is safe and may help reduce abnormal clotting in cats with heart disease, the release states.

For more about the Morris Animal Foundation and the research studies it funds visit

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