Remy is one lucky dog, and she has one of two new cancer drugs under development in cooperation with the University of Kansas Cancer Center to thank.
The 10-year-old Sheltie already had a rough life before being adopted by Julie Yoder of Shawnee, Kansas. But when Remy got cancer on her leg, her veterinarian remembered hearing about cancer drug trials that were being conducted in pet dogs.
They called HylaPharm, a KU spinout company that has had great success treating cancer in dogs by injecting its original medication, HylaPlat, directly into tumors. Remy was accepted as part of a test of one of the two new drugs that are under development – Caninamide and Veresimod.
The treatment protocol called for four shots of Caninamide given two weeks apart, but after just one injection, Remy’s tumor showed signs it was dying. Within a few months the wound had healed so well it was no longer visible.
“I really can’t say with any confidence that Remy would be alive today without the treatment.” said Yoder. “Surgery wasn’t really an option, so being in the HylaPharm study is probably the reason she is cancer free and here today. They gave me my girl back.”
Caninamide and Veresimod are designed like their predecessor HylaPlat, so they can be injected directly into cancerous tumors. But both of these drugs are part of a new trend in cancer research, immune therapies that use a person’s own immune system to fight the cancer. The researchers hope that by injecting the medications directly into the tumors, the effects will be more localized and hopefully mesh well with other cancer treatments.
“I’m a people doc, so it’s good to know that saving four-legged lives is hopefully one of the steps on the road to saving some two-legged lives,” said Daniel Aires, M.D., J.D., co-founder of HylaPharm, a professor in the Department of Dermatology and a researcher affiliated with the KU Cancer Center. “Being able to save dogs’ lives is a great thing.”
Both new drugs are created in a HylaPharm laboratory on KU’s West Campus in Lawrence by a team led by co-founder and chief technical officer Laird Forrest, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
“We’re taking any dog that has a cancer where we think one of our drugs can help, and the family and the veterinarian want to try it,” Aires said. “We hope to save pets now and people someday soon.” Anyone who has a pet dog with cancer can call 913-588-3840 to see if their dog qualifies for the study.
“I get some odd looks when I tell people she was part of a clinical trial at KU Cancer Center,” Yoder said. “But I’m quick to point out that she is alive because of it. I don’t know what would have happened if not for the trial.
The video includes sound from Dr. Aires and Remi’s owner, Julie Yoder, as well as b-roll of the three interacting.