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Old 09-20-2011, 07:07 AM   #1
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Dog to human health treatments

From dogs to humans - University of Minnesota studies new brain cancer vaccine

For much of his life, John Huls wasn't really a big fan of dogs.
But the St. Cloud resident has developed a stronger affinity for canines this year through his participation in a research study at the University of Minnesota.
In 2008, veterinarians at the U developed a treatment for brain tumors in dogs that includes surgery and an experimental anti-cancer vaccine. Now, doctors have developed a version of the canine treatment that's being tested in a few humans.
Huls, 63, started receiving his vaccine about two months ago and is feeling great, although he's not sure whether to credit the treatment or the fact that he's no longer undergoing chemotherapy. Either way, Huls says, he is glad to be contributing to research at a time when cancer vaccines are offering new hope to patients.
"I do believe that at some point there will be a vaccine that is effective," Huls said during a news conference Monday at the U's veterinary school.
For veterinarians, the possible migration of a treatment from dogs to humans is an unusual twist. It's much more common for high-tech treatments such as MRIs and insulin pumps to be perfected in humans and then tried in animals, said Elizabeth Pluhar, a U veterinarian.
Pluhar, Huls and a golden retriever named Piper attended the news conference in Falcon Heights to publicize both the human and animal treatments. Piper underwent brain surgery this summer and on Monday visited the U's veterinary hospital for a final treatment
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with the vaccine, said her owner, Mary Johnson of Minneapolis. "We still have 60 slots open for dogs" in a separate study, Pluhar said, noting that dog owners would have to pay about $15,000 for pets to receive treatment outside the context of a research project.
Two years ago, Huls was diagnosed with a brain tumor called a glioblastoma that recurred despite treatment with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. It's "extraordinarily rare" for patients to survive a recurrent glioblastoma, said Dr. Christopher Moertel, clinical director of the brain tumor program at the U's Amplatz Children's Hospital.
The vaccine treatment for humans is being studied in a "phase one" trial, meaning the study is designed to show whether the vaccine is toxic to patients. Depending on the results, researchers might go on to conduct larger studies to determine if the treatment is safe and effective.
Even though the research effort is in the very early stages, it's possible that patients like Huls might experience some benefit from the treatment, Moertel said. For the time being, the St. Cloud resident has a good quality of life, and the remnants of his second tumor, which was surgically removed earlier this year, aren't growing.
"I am a skeptic about this stuff, but scientists are supposed to be skeptics," Moertel said. "Thank goodness for the time that Mr. Huls has with his family."
One of the first cancer vaccines for humans, called Provenge, was approved for use in the United States last year. The prostate cancer treatment has attracted attention both because of its effectiveness for some patients and its large price tag for all - the one-time treatment costs $93,000.



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