Lymphoma is by far the most common cancer that we treat in dogs and it's a non-Hodgkin's form, which is also a devastating disease in people, and so I think not only is it a convenient cancer to study looking at the comparative aspects because of the similarities between species, but also how common it is, both in the dog and in the human.
So, right now we're standing in the oncology treatment room at the Center for Comparative Animal Health. That's one of the main buildings within the veterinary teaching hospital here at UC Davis. We are doing physical exams on patients here - we're administering treatments, chemotherapy treatments - doing some minor biopsy procedures.
We're trying to figure out the basic mechanisms of disease, of how lymphoma works, so that we can then come up with rational targets, so we can come up with less toxic types of therapies than we've used traditionally with chemotherapy.
There are more lymphoma cases in the dogs, than in humans. So, you get to break them down, you get the molecular analysis and since there are more dogs, it's like you're quickening the clinical trial. Can we come up with a better way of getting this information? And one of those ways, we think, is by interacting with the vet school.
We have funding from the National Canine Cancer Foundation to work on a nanoparticle that will coat the chemotherapy, coat a traditional drug like doxorubicin and we actually already worked with a drug called Taxol, in order to see if coating it can make it less toxic and more effective.
Now, this also reaches over to the human side and so we have this kind of cross over that's really important. We've done a lot of work in the past year, particularly some of the other faculty, Dr. Chen, have published some major work that has come out.
So, my primary research is on p53, which is a tumor suppressor. It's a very interesting protein. When the protein is lost, both in human and animal, then the host will develop tumor almost 100%. So, that happened to be the case also in dog. We actually have, one of the projects which is ongoing, is the protein we identified called RNPC1, which actually repress p53 expression in both mice, human and also in dog. So, what we like to do is to design a molecule to get rid of this particular protein. Then we can activate p53 and theoretically, we can kill the cancer cell.
I think the real message is, we have to come together, and do team science, based upon individual excellence. So, we don't give out one or the other, but we have to quicken the pace.
You know, we're all mammals. We share similar diseases, including cancer and the idea that if you can make advances in one, you make advances in the other.