new cancer treatment for dogs

A novel dog cancer medication has been developed to treat and cure the disease.

According to a recent study, prevalent cancers in dogs and humans may lead to collaboration between human and veterinary medicine.

Researchers, Associate Professor Too Heng-Phon, Dr. Sarah Ho, and their team at the Yoong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS Medicine), modified a specific type of stem cell in dogs with cancer.

In the research, they modified Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) to detect malignant tumors.

These cells, according to the scientists, contain powerful “kill-switch” chemicals called cytosine deaminase.

These chemicals stimulate immunity against cancer and produce a high, localized concentration of the cancer-curing medication (5-fluorouracil) in the tumor environment. 

Dr Sarah Ho with microscopic pictures of the modified stem cells
Dr. Sarah Ho with microscopic pictures of the modified stem cells. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

The development of this medication for canine patients advances the team's understanding of cancer therapies.

Associate Professor Too Heng-Phon said,

“To repurpose stem cells for cancer treatment, it is usual to use viruses to introduce therapeutic genes into the cells. We have, however, designed a non-viral gene delivery platform that introduces a high payload of therapeutic genes into the stem cells to destroy the out-of-control growing cancer cells effectively. With this therapy that has been proven safe and demonstrated promising clinical benefits in animal patients, we hope to develop effective treatment options to help human patients with cancer, which can improve their health without compromising their quality of life.”

The NUS Medicine team's method was first employed on canine patients in Singapore in 2018.

The study team collaborated with other veterinarians and institutes to provide the therapy to 65 dogs and 2 cats suffering from diseases such as perianal adenoma, lung metastasis, and sarcoma.

The medication was administered to veterinary patients in the trial via direct tumor-site injections or bloodstream, followed by the administration of oral pills containing a substance routinely used to treat fungal infection (5-flucytosine) over a few days.

A syringe of the modified stem cells developed by the NUS Medicine scientists
A syringe of the modified stem cells developed by the NUS Medicine scientists. PHOTO: NUS YONG LOO LIN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

After roughly seven days, the cycle was repeated for two weeks before the initial course of treatment ended.

Fifty-six of the animal patients that received the therapy over a period of 3-8 weeks exhibited symptoms of a positive response.

According to the scientists, 14 of these animals recovered completely following the treatment.

Forty-six patients demonstrated good quality of life over a period of 2-32 months with the therapy, while two animal patients were cancer-free at least 30 months after treatment.

There were no notable negative effects identified during treatment. This is presumably due to the therapeutic cells' confined spot within the tumor environment.

The researchers now hope that the treatment will become a standard choice for cancer-stricken canines in the future.

In future investigations, experts intend to discuss strategies for human clinical trials in Singapore and the Asia Pacific area. These are scheduled to start in 2024.

Dr. Ho Yoon Khei, the first author and lead scientist of the research, said, 

“Currently, we can develop this therapy for up to 18 human patients every week. Beyond results that have shown to benefit our companion animals, it is our hope to extend the therapy to human patients in the future and improve healthcare outcomes for those who have cancer– especially when they have no treatment options left.”

New Cancer Treatment for Dogs: Conclusion

Dogs are susceptible to many of the same cancers that affect humans, with the disease being the leading cause of mortality among canines when it progresses to the terminal stage.

Even while pets of any age can have cancer, their risk of getting it increases with age.

However, a unique approach to chemoimmunotherapy has just emerged as a treatment that holds promise for changing the trajectory of dogs' lives.

A therapy using modified stem cells has been developed to treat dog cancer patients, keeping their high quality of life and increasing their lifespan.


How Aubrey describes love is a wet nose and a happy tail. She now has over a year of experience writing about canines with a particular emphasis on health and behavior. She enjoys sharing dog tips, fun facts, and pet med topics, among other things. Her passion for both writing and dogs inspired her to share her knowledge and experience with other dog parents so they could provide the greatest care for their pets. She also stands against alpha, leader, and dominance theories. She believes there’s no need to do extra things like eating prior to your dogs.