Jul
26
2006

Twelve veterinary colleges and professionals at the Animal Medical Center in New York have started working with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and pharmaceutical companies to test novel treatments on companion animals. The Comparative Oncology Consortium, as the group is called, completed its first trial last month and members are enthusiastic about the online venue and funding that this network offers.

“It represents the coming of age [for] veterinary oncology,” said David Vail, DVM, an advisory board member who participated in the first trial. “It [allows us to] test scientific methods in a rigorous and controlled atmosphere.”

The long-term goal is to provide pets that may otherwise be euthanized with innovative treatments and to expedite the approval process for human cancer drugs by providing scientific data from trials. The consortium, which was created last year, allows members to communicate through a virtual network designed and maintained by the NCI. Consortium members suggest trials and final decisions are made by professionals in the NCI’s Comparative Oncology Program. The use of companion animal models for cancer treatments is not new, but the common funding and organized, online infrastructure for data collection, assessment, and publication is, Vail said.

For private practitioners, consortium trials provide clients with treatment options when pets are diagnosed with cancers that do not have good standards for care or in cases of financial hardship, Vail said. Funding is provided by the NCI or drug companies.

Down the line, trials may expedite human drug approvals, which will positively impact the veterinary market, Vail said. The latest drug cost $800 million in research and development and the approval process took one and a half years, Vail explained.

Two more clinical trials are in the consortium pipeline and all of the member veterinary schools are invited to participate. In the first trial, four of the centers opted to test a biological agent that adheres to blood vessels that feed tumors.

In the past, oncologists utilized the Veterinary Cooperative Oncology Group to pose questions and assess retrospective studies. In comparison, the consortium is a “constantly querying database,” and Vail emphasized the value of the live tool, which professionals utilize to submit proposals for clinical trials, enter information, and pose questions.

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