– By Nelia Dashiell and Eva Maciejewski

Recently, the FBR team did some research and discovered a recurring theme in our most popular blog posts over the years, including “How Animal Research Helps Pets,” “Three Major Pet Medications Developed with Animal Testing,” and “How Dogs and Cats Benefit from Animal Research.” The benefits of animal research for pets is a very popular topic! Back by popular demand, we’re going to share some of the new treatments and cures for our furry companions.

Animal research continues to help researchers study cancer, which is the number one leading cause of death for dogs. Since our original article “How Animal Research Helps Pets” in 2016, veterinary drug sponsors (the pharmaceutical companies developing drugs) have started looking for innovative drugs and treatments for the most prevalent types of cancers that affect dogs – lymphoma, melanoma, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumors. Previously, the only drugs that were available to treat cancer in dogs were those approved for use in humans. Some veterinary drug sponsors have already had success at developing and bringing to market drugs for dog cancer.

Let’s look at the case of lymphoma, one of the most common cancers in dogs, which accounts for 7% to 24% of all dog tumors. In April 2017, Gilead Sciences Inc.‘s rabacfosadine injection (brand name Tanovea – CA1) for dog lymphoma received conditional Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. After choosing not to go further with human clinical trials of Rabacfosadine, Gilead allowed the biotechnology company VetDC to obtain animal health rights for the drug. Rabacfosadine represents a major breakthrough in dog lymphoma research because it can be given in low doses to dogs with cancer, whether they have had previous treatment or not.

Colorado State University’s veterinarian and cancer researcher Dr. Dough Thamm, who was involved with the animal trials that led to the conditional FDA approval of rabacfosadine, said: “Across the board, we saw some positive activity in up to 80 percent of all the lymphoma patients that were treated with this medication… There are many treatments for lymphoma that are currently available for dogs, but almost all of them are repurposed old human cancer drugs… Having another drug in our toolbox that we can reach for, that we know can actually be quite effective for some dogs and doesn’t have to be given very frequently, is a real win.”

Hand-feeding a cat with incurable mouth cancer his last meal. Photo © FBR Media

Hand-feeding a cat with incurable mouth cancer his last meal.
Photo © FBR Media

There are currently no FDA-approved cancer treatments for cats. However, in recent years, the FDA has approved treatments for some of the other diseases that affect cats: kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and feline dental disease. In 2018, pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim’s Semintra became the first FDA-approved drug for the control of systemic hypertension in cats. Semintra is also FDA- approved to treat kidney problems in cats. That same year, the FDA approved Kindred Biosciences, Inc.’s drug Mirataz, which manages undesired weight loss in cats. Weight loss in cats is often an indication of disease of the kidney, bowel, and/or teeth and gums. While Mirataz does not directly treat these diseases, it helps stabilize cats’ weight so that they can then in turn be treated for the underlying disease(s) that are causing the weight loss.

Infectious diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) are also prevalent in cats. FIP is a highly fatal and viral disease caused by the feline coronavirus. FIP research continues to come closer to treatments. GC376 and GS-441524 are two antiviral compounds that have shown high success rates in attacking the feline coronavirus. GC376 was discovered by veterinary researchers from Kansas State University and is currently on its way of receiving approval from the FDA. GS-441524 was discovered by researchers at Gilead Sciences Inc. who are currently in the process of testing the compound.

Dogs and cats – and all our other pets, not to exclude pet rabbits, boa constrictors, and pet rats! – continue to benefit greatly from animal research. Without animal research for the ongoing development of treatments and cures for diseases that affect animals, our furry companions wouldn’t be able to live their healthy lives by our side.

Thanks to animal research for helping not only humans, but our pets too!

Check out FBR’s Love Animals? Support Animal Research campaign to learn more about how animals benefit from animal research.

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