Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine conducting clinical trial on new melanoma drug

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Dogs, like their human companions, can be susceptible to skin cancer, and the Oncology Service at Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine could use the help of man's best friend in launching a clinical trial to test a new melanoma treatment drug.

"This study is designed to test a new drug that may be useful in treating melanoma, or skin cancer, which most commonly occurs in the mouth in dogs," said Dr. Bruce Smith, a professor in the Department of Pathobiology and director of the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer, or AURIC.

"The drug, called MMX, is a peptide, which is a chain of amino acids, the basic building blocks of all proteins," Dr. Smith said. "This study seeks to measure the effect of this drug on these tumors. We are currently taking patients to participate in the clinical trial."

Dog owners who are interested in enrolling their pets into this clinical trial must do so through the Oncology Service at the college's Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital.

They can be referred by their primary veterinarian, according to Dr. Smith. The treatment, as well as surgery to remove any tumor left at the end of the trial, will be provided at no cost to the owner.

The trial initially is about a five-week program, Dr. Smith said. It involves the dog owner bringing the animal in for an initial evaluation.

"The melanoma is measured, the drug is administered, and we begin a series of treatment and monitoring the tumor to measure its response," Dr. Smith said. "The dog will need to visit Auburn weekly for five weeks. In addition, owners will administer the peptide daily at home and keep a logbook about their dog while it is being treated."

Dr. Smith said this drug is not chemotherapy, but rather, a protein-based medication that has been tested on dogs in a clinical setting with no known side effects.

"It appears to act quickly to shrink the tumors," Dr. Smith adds. "It has been under testing in a clinical setting for about 10 years and now, it is ready to be tested for FDA approval."

Dog owners who believe their pet might be a candidate for participating in this clinical trial can contact the Oncology Service at the Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital at 334-844-6000. More information about this clinical trial can be found on the Oncology Service website.

The study is an example of Auburn faculty working toward life-changing solutions to meet pressing global health issues.

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The College of Veterinary Medicine is the South's original and nation's seventh oldest veterinary medical program, celebrating 126 years. We prepare individuals for careers of excellence in veterinary medicine, including private and public practice, industrial medicine, academics, and research. The college provides programs of instruction, research, outreach, and service that are in the best interests of the citizens of the state of Alabama, the region, the nation, and the world.