During National Pet Cancer Awareness Month, biotech company PharmAust puts the call out for canines to help evaluate a new anti-cancer drug shown to be safe and effective in preliminary trials. The compassionate use program is a prelude to a multi-institutional canine cancer trial to start next year.

Leading veterinary cancer specialist Dr Angela Frimberger and her team at Veterinary Oncology Consultants are evaluating a drug called monepantel (MPL) in dogs that have been newly diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma and have not started any treatment.  MPL is already approved for veterinary use for a different indication and species. PharmAust is aiming to repurpose MPL as safe and effective cancer treatment.

“Four dogs have already been treated for lymphoma and the results have been very  promising,” said Dr Frimberger. “So far, we have shown that MPL is safe, and three out of three dogs with B-cell lymphoma have had stabilisation of disease on the drug without significant side effects!”

PharmAust is inviting more dogs with lymphoma to complete the last phase of the program.

“PharmAust’s long term strategy is to develop MPL to treat cancers in both dogs and humans,” said Richard Hopkins, CEO of PharmAust. “A ‘Phase I’ trial in human cancer patients at the Royal Adelaide Hospital showed that cancer markers in patients are significantly suppressed. Treatments that work effectively in canines are recognised as being highly predictive of the way drugs behave in human clinical trials. Trials undertaken  using MPL in dogs will inform and accelerate parallel efforts to develop MPL as a human cancer therapy.”

Program entry criteria

The canine entry criteria for the present compassionate use program are:

  • Stage 1 to 3 lymphoma (based on physical exam)
  • Substage a
  • Immunophenotype can be pending but must be submitted, and needs to be B-cell based on clinical characteristics
  • No previous treatment, including corticosteroids (prednisolone)
  • No other significant concurrent medical problems
  • Good quality of life.

“The treatment currently involves a relatively large number of capsules, so dogs that are difficult to orally medicate wouldn’t be great candidates,” said Dr Frimberger. “But we are working on reformulating the drug to make it better tasting and easier to administer to dogs before the full trials commence next year.”

The MPL program involves two consultations/treatments at the Animal Referral Hospital (ARH) in Homebush, NSW. Owners would have to transport their dogs to and from Homebush for the two treatments. PharmAust will cover all compassionate use program costs, including travel expenses to and from the ARH, as well as costs for the initial conventional chemotherapy treatment upon program completion.

 For more information or to enrol, please contact Dr Angela Frimberger on drfrimberger.monepantel@gmail.com

 What is canine lymphoma?

Cancer is the number one cause of death in dogs over the age of 2, with 25 per cent of deaths attributed to cancer¹.  “Approximately one in four dogs and one in five cats will develop cancer in their lifetime. But thanks to more pet cancer awareness, improved preventative care and early diagnosis, we are better able to fight pet cancer,” said Dr Frimberger.

 

Lymphoma, the most common cancer in dogs, occurs in the white blood cells of the immune system. Symptoms can include tumours, lethargy, weight loss and loss of appetite. “The key to a good prognosis with canine lymphoma is early diagnosis and this particular form of cancer is very rapidly progressive, so it’s important to act quickly,” she said.

 

National Pet Cancer Awareness Month is a reminder to pet owners to regularly inspect your pet for any lumps or bumps, and pay attention to sudden changes in appearance and behaviour. “I always recommend keeping pet insurance so that if you do need to make any major treatment decisions, you can focus solely on your pet’s best interest rather than having to worry about costs. And, if you are concerned about anything, contact your veterinarian for an assessment,” said Dr Frimberger.

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