UC Davis looking for dogs to take part in cancer vaccine study

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DAVIS, Calif. (KTXL) -- The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine is taking part in a huge canine cancer vaccine study.

Funded by a $5.4 million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project, the study may also have implications for reducing cancer in humans.

The study, in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin and Colorado State University, will test the effectiveness of a vaccine that alerts a dog's immune system to several different kinds of cancers.

Currently, about 30% of dogs die due to some form of cancer.

"It saves the heartbreak of the owners,” said Dr. Jenna Burton, director of the Veterinary Center for Clinical Trials. “It saves the significant financial cost of diagnosing and treating cancer in their pets. And, hopefully, we can have pets living longer, happier lives with their families."

John Harrington's 7-year-old dog, Mia, was enrolled in the study. Like other owners, he had a personal reason to sign up the family pet to get vaccine injections or placebos. He said a previous dog died of cancer much too early.

"We're big believers in research. So anything we can do for Mia and future generations of dog owners we're all for it," he told FOX40.

Burton said preventing cancer is a different approach than trying to fight it once it sets in.

The vaccine, based on promising studies with mice, alerts the immune system to markers found in several different types of tumors.

UC Davis is searching for more dogs that can take part in the study. Mixed breed dogs can participate, as well as dogs that are one of several pure breeds that UC Davis has listed on their site. Dogs must also be between 6 and 10 years old and in good health.

Those involved in the study will get regular exams and if they do contract cancer, there is a fund to help with treatment whether they were given the vaccine or the placebo.

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