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Press Release | August 19, 2015

Studying bone cancer in dogs may yield new therapies for treating osteosarcoma patients

Jaynie 7
Mary LaHam of Toronto with her beloved three-legged greyhound Jaynie, who died of osteosarcoma in July 2015, some months after amputation and chemotherapy. A new Terry Fox Research Institute-funded study will examine the potential of treating the animals with a simple, low cost vaccine. Photo credit: Jan Tuinstra.


August 19, 2015

Studying bone cancer in dogs may yield new therapies for treating patients who, like Terry Fox, are diagnosed with osteosarcoma

Guelph, Ontario - For the first time, funds raised for cancer research by the Terry Fox Foundation through the annual Terry Fox Run will be used to study osteosarcoma in dogs. Osteosarcoma is the form of bone cancer that took Terry Fox’s leg, and eventually his life in 1981. Dogs develop osteosarcoma at a rate 10 times higher than humans.

The hope? Finding new ways to treat the disease in our four-legged friends, using novel approaches such as immunotherapy and oncolytic viruses, may yield new treatments that are beneficial to humans.

 Dr. Byram Bridle, a viral immunologist at the University of Guelph and a member of a Terry Fox Research Institute-funded, pan-Canadian team conducting oncolytic virus trials in humans, is among six national researchers to receive a prestigious Terry Fox New Investigator Award, following a peer-reviewed, country-wide competition.

He will receive $450,000 to undertake a clinical trial in up to 45 dogs next year to test a new vaccine. “Dogs are like people – right now they have a very poor prognosis when diagnosed with bone cancer,” says Dr. Bridle, who sees one-to-three new cases of canine osteosarcoma every week.

 The treatment Dr. Bridle intends to trial uses immunotherapy and oncolytic viruses and will be simple and inexpensive, with two shots administered two weeks apart. When Terry Fox died of osteosarcoma, adds Dr. Bridle, this approach to treatment wasn’t even an option. “This treatment is a win-win situation. If we’re successful with the dogs, we will immediately have a veterinary application for the therapy and gain a lot of confidence moving forward into a human clinical trial.”

 “This is a great honour for the University of Guelph and our Ontario Veterinary College. This year marks the 35th anniversary of Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope, and also the first time the Terry Fox Foundation has supported research at a veterinary school,” said Malcolm Campbell, U of G’s vice-president (research). “This exciting partnership will allow our cancer researchers to push the boundaries of knowledge. University of Guelph researchers will collaborate on novel therapies for treating osteosarcoma in dogs - work that will provide new insights into treating the disease in people.” 

 News of the planned trial excites dog owner and Toronto resident Mary LaHam, who has adopted a number of former racing greyhounds. In July 2015 she lost her beloved greyhound Jaynie to osteosarcoma some months after the dog had her left front leg amputated and received chemotherapy. She was the second dog LaHam has lost to the disease.

 “This research is just tremendously exciting. I love the idea that instead of going through amputation and chemotherapy, with all the anguish that goes with it, something as simple and non-invasive as a vaccine can, in the best of all possible worlds, cure the disease. It’s just so phenomenal,” she remarks about Dr. Bridle’s work.

 “On behalf of TFRI and the Terry Fox Foundation, we congratulate Dr. Bridle on his selection to receive our prestigious Terry Fox New Investigator Award. These three-year awards enable top new talent at our partner cancer research institutions to gain valuable mentorship experience within our pan-Canadian research community from world-class research teams. Further, they are a game-changer for many of the recipients, enabling them to build their own research and laboratory programs at a critical time in their careers. We also thank our funding partners who made it possible this year for us to invest a record $2.7 million so, most importantly, we can support these future leaders in cancer research who will play a pivotal role in helping us to fulfill Terry’s dream to eradicate cancer,” says Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI President and Scientific Director.

 TFRI has also made New Investigator awards to five other Canadian researchers: three in Quebec and two in BC to pursue their research under Terry Fox’s name. TFRI invests funds raised by the Terry Fox Foundation through the annual Terry Fox Run, which this year will be held on Sunday, September 20, 2015.


About The Terry Fox Foundation (TFF)

The Terry Fox Foundation maintains the vision and principles of Terry Fox while raising money for cancer research through the annual Terry Fox Run, Terry’s CAUSE on Campus, National School Run Day and other fundraising initiatives. To date, over $700 million has been raised worldwide for cancer research in Terry Fox's name. The first Terry Fox Run was held in 1981, with The Terry Fox Foundation being created in 1988. Its national headquarters are located in Chilliwack, BC and it has offices in 9 provinces.

 About The Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI)

Launched in October 2007, The Terry Fox Research Institute is the brainchild of The Terry Fox Foundation and today functions as its research arm. TFRI seeks to improve significantly the outcomes of cancer research for the patient through a highly collaborative, team-oriented, milestone-based approach to research that will enable discoveries to translate quickly into practical solutions for cancer patients worldwide. TFRI collaborates with over 65 cancer hospitals and research organizations across Canada. TFRI headquarters are in Vancouver, BC.

About the University of Guelph/The Mona Campbell Centre for Animal Care

The University of Guelph is one of Canada's top comprehensive universities. It’s the home of the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), which is ranked fourth worldwide and first in Canada. In 2012, OVC opened the first comprehensive animal cancer treatment and research centre in Canada—the Mona Campbell Centre for Animal Cancer. It offers the most advanced tools for diagnosis, treatment and teaching, maximizing the quality of life for animals living with cancer and promoting collaborative research that helps all species.