| Fortunately, a novel approach
to cancer treatment has been gaining momentum over the last
decade. Instead of trying to kill the cancer directly with
drugs the current thinking is to assist the patient's own
immune system in targeting and killing the cancer cells.
This "concept" of harnessing the power of the
immune system is not new. For over 200 years, vaccinating
against foreign micro-organisms has saved untold numbers
of people and animals (eg. flu, smallpox, measles, distemper).
This technique relies on the immune system's principal function
of attacking and destroying anything that is identified
The key issue in producing a vaccine for cancer is that
you are asking the immune system to attack the patient's
own cells which under normal circumstances is clearly not
a good thing! The way around this problem is to vaccinate
with material from another species.
The similarities in the DNA between mammals means that
the genetic material from humans, which is specific for
melanoma cancer, can stimulate an immune response in "Toby".
Just as, genetic material from other mammals can stimulate
an immune repsonse in humans. A previous study in dogs,
using human DNA within a vaccine, produced remarkable results.
Consequently, it is hoped that Toby will be around for many
years to come!
As our genetic profiles are steadily being revealed the
potential benefits for both human and veterinary patients
in the treatment of cancer shows exciting prospects. It
could just be that your faithful friend may be able to offer
a little more than companionship!
Dunne BVMS, Cert SAO, MRCVS
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