As the human and pet relationship evolves toward the inclusion of pets within the family unit, pet owners are more inclined to look after the long-term health of their animals. Companies such as Nexvet of Dublin are creating advanced therapies for domesticated animals that have previously been reserved for humans.
Previous Problems with Advanced Therapies
Traditionally, pets are treated for common conditions such as pain with low doses of medications that are administered to humans such as doxycycline a popular human and pet antibiotic. However, veterinarians have operated for a long time with the knowledge that advanced medications and treatments like cell therapies and treatment with antibodies similar to those used in humans usually create an immune response that is detrimental to pet health. For a long time, there simply hasn't been demand or money to move pet-specific advanced treatments forward.
Stem Cells and Antibodies in Veterinary Medicine
However, attitudes across the world have changed toward pet healthcare. An interest in the welfare of domesticated animals has revealed the potential for marketable medical care that attracts investors.
Nexvet Pet Medicine
With the help of over $80 million provided by US investors, Nexvet can now use antibodies approved for human use as a base for animal medicine. They alter the structure of the antibodies to mimic those that occur in animals, making the therapies safer and more effective for pets.
Researchers at Nexvet are also interested in developing antibodies for use as an immune system stimulant when cancer is present in pets. The team wants the antibodies to block PD-1, a protein that promotes cell death, which helps regulate the immune system. PD-1 inhibitors like those that Nexvet looks to develop may trigger the immune system to fight malignant tumors. The treatment has already shown promise in humans and may be adaptable for pet use.
Kansas-based pet therapy company Aratana Therapeutics currently has 2 antibody therapies developed for canines. BLONTRESS, a therapy that targets B-cell lymphoma, and TACTRESS, a therapy that targets T-cell lymphoma, have already been licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for cancer treatment in dogs. The next step is to win approval for supervision during research for a cancer vaccine that will target malignant cancer cells with a special type of bacteria.
The company is also planning to seek USDA approval for dog stem-cell therapy before such treatments are even available for humans. However, stem cell therapies are planned for the future and are currently superseded by antibody therapies at Aratana.
Other Unique Therapies
Other veterinarians are using new and creative techniques to look for additional avenues for treatment. The potential of alternative therapies for pets is still relatively untapped, but pet parents are beginning to pay real money for medications & treatments that may offer permanent results.
Veterinary oncologist Colleen O’Connor, founder of Houston, Texas-based CAVU Biotherapies, is deeply interested in finding cancer treatments for pets. The team at CAVU is looking to harvest immune cells from dogs, place them in a culture, revitalize them, then place them back into the bloodstream. The hope is that they will trigger an immune response that will fight the disease using the body's own systems.
The antibody and cell therapy market is only in its beginning stages. While the money available for research is increasing thanks to the demand for specialized animal care, research teams still need to break through the walls of bureaucracy and learn safe ways to test their therapies before sending them to market. However, strides in human antibody and cell therapies may push the same research forward for animals.
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