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Dogs with cancer needed for new therapy treatment at U of G

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Researchers at the University of Guelph are hoping to revolutionize cancer care with an innovative treatment.

The Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) is using nanotechnology and laser light therapy on dogs with cancer. The team said clinical trials have been done before, but not in the same way.

"This is the first time where it’s been in a naturally occurring cancer patient," said Charly McKenna, the research manager for the Veterinary Medical Innovation Platform and OVC Clinical Trials.

Those clinical trials started in February on patients like Miya, a 10-year-old yellow lab retriever.

Her owner, Liz Pietrzak from Carlisle, Ontario, said Miya was diagnosed with thyroid cancer earlier this year and was grateful when the team told her about the trials.

"We were happy to be chosen, and why not? Why not try to give back?" Pietrzak said. "Miya is a retired St. John’s therapy dog so she’s used to giving back."

She said Miya got her tumour removed and is now doing well.

"She was a star. I have two other dogs and I don’t think they would be as good as she was," she said.

As part of the trial, patients undergo standard-of-care surgery to remove the entire tumour.

For the treatment, they combine light-activated nanoparticles, called porphysomes, along with photodynamic therapy (PDT). Porphysomes are injected into the bloodstream and are collected in the tumour, or any other spots it may have spread.

"We are better able to see where the tumour is, so really see the shape of the tumour and the margins of the tumor," said McKenna. "And we can use specialized lasers in combination with porphysomes to destroy some tumour cells in the mass."

The team called it a safer alternative to other treatments, as they only destroy part of the tumour and then takes samples to assess the results of the therapy.

"When we add in the laser therapy we can really kill those tumour cells rather than affecting normal healthy tissue," she said.

Researchers have only tested it on four canine cancer patients so far but hope to recruit more.

McKenna said they are looking for: "a dog that has a thyroid tumour that is freely moveable and are interested in pursuing surgery.”

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