PharmAust says there’s a goldmine of unexplored data from companion animals’ cancer research –  data which could unlock answers to the nature of our own struggles with cancer.

Cancer, it turns out, is the leading cause of death in companion animals.

And over decades of study, researchers have accumulated a huge amount of data on why these trusted cats and dogs succumb to the disease.

Now, due to the remarkable biological and environmental similarities shared between these pets and humans, researchers are discovering for the first time a hidden cache of extraordinary data which could shed all kinds of light on how cancer progresses in humans.

The approach could potentially cut decades of research into human cancer, providing the opportunity for medical discoveries which benefit not only our pets, but the people that love them as well.

At the forefront of this new and exciting field is an Australian company which understands the space and its potential – PharmAust (ASX:PAA).

PharmAust’s flagship treatment, monepantel (MPL) is currently being studied in a Phase 2 clinical trial of canines with lymphoma cancer, in addition to human trials in COVID-19 and motor neurone disease.

Stockhead reached out to the Principal Investigator of the canine clinical trials, Dr. Kim Agnew, to get the inside running on what’s a new battlefront in cancer research.

Agnew has seen cancer treatments evolve enormously, and says the pace of evolution is only accelerating even when compared to ten years ago.

In the past, palliative treatment and cytotoxic chemotherapies have always been the gold standard, but researchers have the tools and the encouragement to now look beyond the expected and incorporate entirely new approaches.

“There are many different approaches these days. For example, the treatments that are employed in canine lymphoma are also used in humans Hodgkin’s disease, because those diseases are almost identical,” Agnew told Stockhead.

“Dogs practically live in the same environment as humans, and this is why the study of dogs has potentially huge referencing ability for people, and you can expedite development times by years by using these canine models,” he said.


Quality of life

Scientists have long noted the similarities in mutations and biological changes in dogs and people with melanoma, lymphoma and lung cancers.

Although these similarities could help researchers develop effective treatments in human cancers, Agnew said not all cancer data could be extrapolated from dogs directly to humans.

“There are some tumors and some species which have no relevance to people,” Agnew explained.

“But if you think about canine tumours such as lymphoma, osteosarcoma, and the model of osteosarcoma, they’re very similar to humans.”

Kids could get osteosarcoma, and mammary tumours in women and prostatic cancers in men could also be studied from canine models, he said.

Referring to his early research, Agnew observed that what usually happens is most pet owners are prepared to accept more ‘adverse effects themselves,’  than they would for their dogs.

“So having a drug like monepantel will provide the option for pet owners to maintain the dogs’ quality of life – because the treatment has less side effects and won’t be as long as chemotherapy,” he said.

At the end of the day, lymphoma is ultimately a fatal disease regardless of what you use, so increasing the dog’s quality of life in the time left could be the most important factor for pet owners.

“For humans, if we have six months to live we would plan out things that we want to do before we die. But for dogs, they don’t know that and the most important thing is to get the best quality of life in the time left.”


Clinical trial rapidly progressing

PharmAust is moving fast towards a Phase 3 clinical trial in its MPL canine study, following encouraging Phase 2 results in October last year.

Data from Phase 2 showed that combining MPL with prednisolone more than doubles the life expectancy of pet dogs, compared with standard-of-care (prednisolone alone).

Of the seven pet dogs with drug plasma levels in the optimum range, six achieved stable disease progression, and one had a partial response with some tumours even completely disappearing.

The treated dogs have also achieved much higher than expected mean and median survival times, at 125 and 138 days, respectively.

PharmAust has signed agreements with NZ-based Veterinary Specialists Auckland and Intuit Regulatory to expand its canine Phase 2b lymphoma studies into the country ahead of the upcoming Phase 3 trial, which is expected to commence in May.

“I have talked to a number of large pharma companies about the opportunities for monepantel, and the feeling I get is that these pharma companies support the middle ground that monepantel provides, between that of prednisolone and chemotherapy.”

This article was developed in collaboration with PharmAust, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.