Treating cancer amid a global pandemic
Veterinary clinics are resilient. They have already begun adapting to the added stress associated with COVID-19.
Adapting is the key word. One day at a time. We will get through this. We have in the past.
During the 2008–2009 great recession, the veterinary industry was a shining star. We know that pet parents are willing to do what it takes to help their pets. The past five recessions have shown that. While gross domestic product decreased, veterinary spending continued to increase.
COVID-19 will bring a whole new set of challenges to veterinary clinics and their clients that will need to be addressed. Veterinary medicine is deemed an essential business, so urgent care and emergency service will continue to be provided, and clinics have the potential to weather the storm better than a lot of other industries.
One way veterinarians can adapt is to offer clients new therapies that fit in the urgent care category. If you look at readily available cancer therapies, they can cost thousands of dollars and require multiple clinic visits, which could prove difficult for clients during a financial crisis and shelter-at-home directives.
Immunotherapy is becoming a game-changing option for human cancer after the development and launch of monoclonal antibodies directly targeting or blocking interactions of tumor-associated antigens, or proteins found and/or overexpressed on the outside surface of a tumor cell.
In the veterinary market, the use of personalized cancer vaccines has taken off. These treatments use a surgically resected portion of the tumor to capture specific tumor-associated antigens and provide them back in a vaccine preparation for administration to the pet.
Taking a portion of nonformalin fixed tissue allows for a vast menu of antigenic targets to be presented back to the immune system. Vaccines created from entire tumors allow for a greater variety of antigens to be presented to the immune system. The identity of individual antigens is often unknown, but it can be assumed that the rich choice of antigenic targets increases the likelihood of a successful immune response (Suckow, Heinrich, and Rosen 2007).
Autologous cancer vaccines are administered subcutaneously. These treatments are provided back in short interval durations to stimulate an immune response and, more importantly, these treatments can be administered curbside or in short appointment windows under the direction of an attending veterinarian.
Laboratories at Torigen Pharmaceuticals can create a personalized cancer vaccine using a portion of nonformalin fixed tumor. Studies have shown the safe ability to stimulate an immune response; however, it should be noted that Torigen’s autologous cancer vaccine is an experimental treatment regulated under USDA 9 CFR § 103.3. It is only for use under the supervision and prescription of a licensed veterinarian, but, so far, nearly 1,000 companion animals have been treated.
During this trying time, veterinarians and pet owners are looking for different options, and potentially for practices, this could be an option. Cancer researchers at Torigen may be able to help.