VetDC scores positive results in trial of canine lymphoma drug

Golden retriever
VetDC is developing a drug to treat lymphoma, which is prevalent in many breeds such as golden retrievers.

VetDC was spun off from Colorado State University in 2009 with a goal of taking experimental treatments that have been shelved by pharmaceutical companies and developing them for use in veterinary medicine. Now one of its first targets--a lymphoma drug initially discovered by Gilead Sciences ($GILD)--is delivering impressive results in clinical trials.

On June 7, VetDC announced that in a trial involving 54 dogs with lymphoma, the drug, Tanovea (rabacfosadine), produced an 81% response rate when given in conjunction with the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. The median progression-free survival was 200 days, which was superior to what’s generally achieved with doxorubicin alone, according to a press release. The FDA is currently reviewing Tanovea for approval.

Tanovea is a small-molecule drug that in the trial was given in alternating doses with doxorubicin every three weeks. In previous trials, the overall survival rate achieved by dogs taking the drug averaged 77%, according to VetDC’s website, and response rates were high even among dogs that had failed previous treatments.

The current standard of care for dogs with lymphoma is a multi-chemo-drug regimen known as CHOP, a harsh treatment regimen that can require up to 16 veterinary visits. The Tanovea combination, by contrast, was given in the recent trial in about 6 visits.

Lymphoma is up to five times more prevalent in dogs as it is in people, and an estimated one in 15 dogs are at risk of developing the disease, according to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. It’s no surprise, then, that finding new treatments for the disease is a priority in the animal health industry.

Aratana Therapeutics ($PETX), has two USDA-approved lymphoma drugs on the market, Blontress (AT-004) and Tactress (AT-005), but they have not lived up to the company’s initial expectations. Less than a year after fighting to regain the rights to Blontress from Eli Lilly ($LLY), Aratana announced in September 2015 that both it and Tactress were turning in mixed results in clinical trials and were not expected to capture a significant share of the canine lymphoma market.

But that hasn’t dampened the desire of other companies to try to tackle the market. In 2015, Sweden-based Oasmia Pharmaceuticals ($OASM) took back the rights to two cancer drugs from Zoetis ($ZTS), including Doxophos Vet, which it is developing to treat lymphoma in dogs. Doxophos Vet is a special formulation of the main ingredient in doxorubicin. The company has filed for FDA approval of Doxophos Vet in Russia and continues to conduct trials in other countries, including the U.S.

The Tanovea/doxorubicin combination was generally well tolerated by the dogs in VetDC's trial, according to the release. The company is also evaluating it as a possible treatment for cats with lymphoma.

- here’s the VetDC press release

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