A clinical trial where dogs get advanced cancer treatment could pave the way for a new immunotherapy treatment in kids. 

Sarcoma is a cancer of the bones and soft tissues and one of the most common childhood cancers, the third most common cancer in children, with one in three dying from their disease. The first step for almost all sarcoma patients after diagnosis is surgery to remove the tumor. 

Sometimes cancer cells are left behind and the cancer just comes back. The new treatment is a polymer-filled gel which is loaded with immunotherapy drugs and can be applied inside the surgical wound when a patient has a sarcoma tumor removed. The gel is applied before closing the wound as they normally would. The immunotherapy drugs draw immune cells from all over the body and activating them at the site of the tumor to mop up any remaining cancer cells.

Maggie image provided by Telethon Kids Institute

The gel has shown positive results in lab models and now "man's best friend" is an early adopter - dogs diagnosed with sarcomas. Sarcomas are very common in dogs and present the same as humans -  a lump in the tissue of the muscle or bone. The treatment is also the same. The clinical trial not only gives pets access to advanced care, it could give researchers an idea how it will react in kids, before going into human trials.  

Veterinary oncologist Dr. Ken Wyatt from Perth Vet Specialists said so far seven dogs had been treated with the gel in surgery and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. “Everybody’s winning – the dogs are getting treatments they would otherwise not have access to and they’re also doing something that could ultimately help children with cancer.”