While chemotherapy for canine lymphoma kills cancer cells, it also hinders the work of the dog’s own immune system.
Researchers at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have found that t-cells, an important part of the immune system, taken from a dog before chemotherapy is begun, can be cultured to produce more t-cells and then returned to the blood stream after chemotherapy finishes.
The re-introduced t-cells can then help fight B-cell lymphoma.
Dr. Heather Wilson, Veterinary Oncologist in Small Animal Clinical Sciences Department at Texas A&M, told Decoded Science that the preliminary study yielded better results than expected.
She expressed optimism that the next stage, which will involve genetically altering the t-cells to make them more specific, could lead to even longer durable long-term remission.
And, given that the treatment has few, if any side effects, it offers an option for humans, particularly children, who may not be able to tolerate chemotherapy’s toxic side effects.
Fighting Canine B–Cell Lymphoma With T–Cells: What’s Wrong With Standard Chemotherapy?
Lymphoma takes several forms, but diffuse, large b-cell lymphoma is the most common type. This form is also the most deadly, with a life expectancy of only three to four weeks if left untreated.
Unfortunately, even with treatment, dogs given standard chemotherapy often only experience one year of durable remission. Another problem is that a side effect of standard chemotherapy is an alteration in the balance between the two types of t–cells. Cytotoxic (cell killing) cells normally make up 90% of a dog’s t–cells, and the other 10% consist of helper cells. Dr. Wilson describes the helper cells as ‘generals’ directing the ‘foot soldier’ cytotoxic cells to go where needed. When this balance is reversed, as it is for cancer patients, there are too many generals and not enough foot soldiers.