Pets and Vets: Clinical trials for anti-cancer drug in dogs paves way for human trials

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University of Illinois veterinarian, chemist work to develop cancer drug that can help both animals and humans.

An anonymous donor has invested $2 million in a drug that spurs cancer cells to self-destruct while sparing healthy cells. The drug, PAC-1, has been tested in mouse models of cancer and in pet dogs with spontaneously occurring lymphomas and osteosarcomas at the University of Illinois. Working with Illinois chemistry professor Paul Hergenrother, PhD, who discovered PAC-1's anti-cancer capabilities in 2006, professor of veterinary clinical medicine Tim Fan, DVM, PhD, coordinated the clinical trials of the drug in canine patients at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

"In addition to paving the way for the human trial, we have helped many veterinary patients that would not have otherwise received treatments for their cancer," Fan says in a university release. If PAC-1 makes it through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's investigational new drug review, the first human clinical trial of the drug will begin in mid-2014.

Timothy Fan, DVM, PhD (left), professor of veterinary medicine, and Paul Hergenrother, PhD, professor of chemistry, shown with Hoover the research dog, have been collaborating on an anti-cancer drug at the University of Illinois. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS BOARD OF TRUSTEES)

Alabama

An organized dogfighting operation was broken up in the Southeast, resulting in a dozen arrests and the seizure of 367 pit bulls in Alabama and Georgia. According to the Associated Press, the defendants were charged with conspiring to promote and sponsor dog fights and arranging for dogs to be at the fights in several southern and eastern Alabama counties and in Holly Springs, Miss., between 2009 and 2013. Dogs at one Elba, Ala., home were reportedly covered in fleas and secured by heavy chains to car axles buried in the ground. Officials said some pit bulls were so malnourished their ribs were sticking out and others had bad wounds that required emergency care.

Alaska

The mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska—a 16-year-old yellow tabby cat named Stubbs (yes, the mayor is a cat)—is recovering after being mauled by a dog. Reports say Stubbs suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs, a fractured sternum and a five-inch gash on his side. The town of about 800 residents is located 110 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska. When Stubbs was a kitten, he won the mostly ceremonial mayoral post after residents, unhappy with the human candidates, elected the cat as a write-in candidate—where he has served for the past 16 years. Stubbs was found in a box full of kittens in front of the town's general store. Apparently born without a tail, the store manager named him Stubbs and adopted him.

Stubbs was stabilized after the attack by Talkeetna veterinarian Jennifer Pironis, DVM, of Golden Pond Veterinary Services. He was then transferred 61 miles to Wasilla, Alaska, where Amy Lehman, DVM, performed surgery. Lehman told an Anchorage NBC affiliate that Stubbs was able to get up and eat on his own six days after the attack. As of Sept. 5, Lehman said she expects Stubbs will be able to return home in another week, but he will be confined to "crate rest." His grateful constituents are happy to hear that with rest and healing, Mayor Stubbs' prognosis is good.

California

Pet owner Karen Kelly has sued Advanced Critical Care and Internal Medicine Inc. of Tustin, Calif., and four veterinarians for $1 million. In her suit, filed with the California Superior Court in Orange County, Calif., she says the veterinary practice accused her of animal cruelty when she was purportedly unable to afford a $10,000 surgical procedure after her dog was hit by a car. She also alleges that the practice used extortion by threatening to make a report against Kelly if she failed to pay for the surgery for her dog. Kelly says she signed an agreement to pay a $1,308.75 bill associated with what the hospital had already done for her dog, but the lawsuit claims she signed the agreement under severe duress. Kelly is seeking damages in the case for civil extortion, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Kansas

The Salina Police Department arrested Adam Bowers, 34, in late August after he allegedly walked into Atherton Veterinary in Salina, Kan., picked up a snow shovel, and threatened David Atherton, DVM. Lt. Scott Siemsen told the Salina Journal that Bowers had been involved in a domestic disturbance with a woman in the street outside before entering the clinic. Once inside, he ordered staff to call his doctor and police, threatening Atherton before police arrived.

Kentucky

The Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association says that in August, a horse from Hart County died of eastern equine encephalitis—the first case of the disease in the state since 2008. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture listed the horse as a 10-year-old gelding Tennessee walking horse that was not vaccinated.

Maryland

The Maryland Department of Agriculture is warning residents of the spread of canine influenza in the state, specifically in Montgomery County. Between Aug. 21 and 31, 20 cases of influenza were diagnosed and two dogs died. The Montgomery County Recreation Department went as far as to cancel its popular end-of-summer "Pooch Pool Party" as a cautionary measure. Dog parks remain open, but signs have been posted that list symptoms of the virus. Dog owners are asked to be aware of symptoms and contact their veterinarian with concerns.

Mississippi

A Mississippi State senior veterinary student was served a search warrant for the student's off-campus home that revealed dozens of rare and very large snakes and other exotic animals including African cats, birds, frogs and tortoises. Starkville Police Chief David Lindley told the Clarion Ledger that officers exposed an elaborate breeding operation for exotic animals.

He said the living room was filled with row after row of full reptile cages. Although authorities are investigating, the student is currently charged only with misdemeanor city violations and was ordered to remove the animals from the city because they violated local ordinances. The city apparently didn't have proper facilities in order to seize the animals, so faculty and staff from Mississippi State's veterinary school offered assistance "to make sure the matter is handled appropriately," spokesman Sid Salter told the newspaper.

New Jersey

Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J., recently announced a partnership with St. George's University in Grenada to offer a combined BS/DVM degree. A St. George's release says students will complete their undergraduate degree in biology or health sciences at Monmouth University in four years, and upon meeting established admission criteria, progress into St. George's University School of Veterinary Medicine. Qualified veterinary students will be eligible to complete the first three years of veterinary study in Grenada and their final clinical year at affiliated veterinary schools in the United States, Canada, Australia or Ireland. "St. George's University joined forces with Monmouth University so that we can both positively address the physician and veterinarian shortage and help the state of New Jersey educate and train well-qualified professionals," says Charles R. Modica, chancellor of St. George's, in a release.

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