Thanks to the generosity of our donors and sponsors, ACVIM Board-certified veterinary specialist researchers have been making great strides in advancing the medicine and treatments available for our pets, as well as livestock and other large animals. We are pleased to provide the final results from some of the ACVIM Foundation Grants funded over the years.
Combining Canine Chemotherapies
Numerous forms of chemotherapy exist today to treat dogs with cancer. Dr. Barbara Biller of Colorado State University studied the effects of combining a new low-dose oral chemotherapy with a conventional high-dose intravenous chemotherapy drug, which would maximize the efficacy of treatment. Her study revealed that these two drugs can be safely combined, a discovery that will lead to further examinations of the efficacy of this approach in dogs with cancer.
New Delivery System for Seizure Medication
Epilepsy is a common problem in both human and veterinary medicine that results in recurrent seizure activity. Dogs are commonly afflicted with this condition, and frequently develop severe seizures that may be prolonged in nature, leading to severe systemic and nervous system effects that can be fatal.
Therefore, emergent medical intervention is required in these patients. Due to limitations in the existing methods of drug administration, Dr. Christopher Mariani of North Carolina State University studied the efficacy of a new intranasal route of drug administration that proved to be easier to deliver, especially during active seizure activity.
Preventing Muscle Damage in Horses
Horses are at risk of muscle damage during general anesthesia due to their large body size, underlying muscle disease or undergoing long surgical procedures. Through a grant awarded to Dr. Erica McKenzie of Oregon State University, she was able to discover that through administration of the drug dantrolene sodium prior to anesthesia, a significant reduction in muscle damage occurred without prolonging the time it took the horses to recover from anesthesia.
Improved Treatment of Heaves
Heaves is one of the most common chronic lung diseases in horses causing coughing, difficulty breathing and poor performance. Diagnosing heaves can be difficult for veterinarians because of the variable environments to which the horses are exposed. Dr. Laurent Couetil at Purdue University evaluated a new diagnostic technique characterizing many variables in a sample at once, rather than one at a time as per existing techniques. This important groundwork for better diagnostics may lead to improved treatment and prevention of this chronic condition, and could potentially assist in furthering diagnostics for asthma in humans.
Better Survival of Colic
Gastrointestinal disease, including various causes of colic, is the most common reason for horses to be admitted to an equine hospital with 10-30 percent of those horses requiring surgery. Dr. Samuel Hurcombe at The Ohio State University investigated the role of the movement of bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract to the bloodstream in terms of its responsibility for complications and poor prognoses often seen in colic. This study provided new information which will help veterinarians manage and treat these cases, and lead to further research that will improve the survival rate of horses with colic.
New Method of Platelet Preservation
Platelets are cell fragments involved in blood clot formation and assist in the prevention of spontaneous bleeding. When a patient has low platelet numbers or dysfunctional platelets, a transfusion is required. Currently, blood banking guidelines limit the storage of platelet products to 5-7 days. Dr. Mary Beth Callan of the University of Pennsylvania studied improved cryopreservation techniques for storing canine platelets for longer periods of time so they can be available to veterinary clinics without ready access to canine blood donors or blood banks. These findings have the potential to save the lives of numerous dogs in need of platelet transfusions.
Interpreting Results for Equine PPID
The hormonal disease, Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), affects more than 20 percent of aged horses and significantly impacts the health of the animal. Dr. Nicholas Frank of the University of Tennessee discovered blood insulin increases in response to the sugar and carbohydrate composition of pasture grass across seasons. This demonstrates the importance of interactions between the horse and its diet in regard to the development of laminitis. These discoveries have provided clinicians with valuable information when interpreting test results for equine PPID.
Dr. Edward Breitschwerdt and his research group at North Carolina State University have refined and validated the most sensitive diagnostic platform for the detection of Bartonella species infection that exists in the world today by growing the bacteria in an insect-based cell culture medium. This approach more accurately documents blood stream infections in dogs, horses and humans. It has led scientists around the world to consider the role of Bartonella species infections in people with chronic illnesses and extensive occupational animal contact.
Regulating Feline Heart Rate
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most commonly observed heart muscle disease in cats associated with high mortality. Elevated heart rates in an HCM patient can progress the disease substantially. Dr. Karsten Schober of The Ohio State University discovered a new drug that regulates the heart rate of the affected cats with no side effects. The drug has proved to be well tolerated by the patients and, in addition, has been found to reduce the risk of fatal arrhythmias.
Understanding the Cause of Lymphoma
Lymphoma is a common cancer in both dogs and people. In humans, the risk of developing lymphoma increases with exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment, and is increased further if a person cannot break down these chemicals efficiently. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Lauren Trepanier discovered that the same is true for dogs. This discovery will help scientists better understand the association between certain pollutants and cancer in dogs so clinicians can provide better screening and avoidance strategies.
Suppressing Blood Clots, Preventing Paralysis
A common complication of feline heart disease is the formation of blood clots within the heart. These blood clots are often carried with blood flow to the hind limbs causing devastating paralysis, pain and tissue death. Because there were no effective medications to prevent or treat these blood clots in cats, Dr. Jennifer Myers of the Colorado State University studied a safe and effective drug used for humans for this same purpose. She concluded that the drug did, in fact, safely suppress blood clotting in cats.
Making Strides for Treating Heaves
Drs. Virginia Buechner-Maxwell and Undine Christmann of Virginia Tech confirmed that in horses with Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO), or “Heaves”, a decrease in fluid secreted by the lungs directly relates to increased breathing difficulties for the afflicted horse. This discovery gives way to further studies in the advancement of the treatment given to horses affected by this common disease.
Easier Management of Diabetes in Cats
Diabetes is a common disease in cats and can often lead to euthanasia due to complications or mismanaged treatment on behalf of the owner. Dr. Chen Gilor of The Ohio State University studied a drug widely used to treat type 2 diabetes in people to determine its efficacy in diabetic cats. The study generated data that suggest a promising future for the drug as a once-a-month injection for diabetic cats.
Identifying Stealthy Cancer Cells
Killer T-cells are often used to combat cancer cells in humans. Sometimes cancer cells conceal their molecular footprint, preventing the T-cells from identifying and destroying them. Dr. Paul Hess at North Carolina State University set out to discover whether this “stealth strategy” also occurs within canine cancer patients. He began researching the methods used by cancer cells to conceal their footprint. Discovering these methods will aid in preventing them from occurring, allowing for more effective T-cell treatment in dogs.
Preventing Disease in Calves
The first milk produced by cows contains high concentrations of antibodies that are essential for the health of the newborn calf. Dr. Derek Foster of North Carolina State University examined the efficacy of using high pressure to reduce the number of unsafe pathogens within the milk without reducing the quantity of the antibodies. He determined that a number of bacteria and viruses could be reduced through this method without decreasing the antibody content.
Evaluating the Spread of Tumors
Oral, maxillofacial and nasal tumors are potentially devastating canine diseases encompassing 7% of all canine tumors. These tumors tend to cause local destruction of tissue and can have high rates of tumor spreading to other locations. One of the major lymph nodes that have been considered to have potential spread is the medial retropharyngeal lymph node. Dr. Bonnie Boudreaux and her team at Louisiana State University are working to evaluate how often tumors of the head and neck spread to medial retropharyngeal and mandibular lymph node at the time of diagnosis, and to evaluate computed tomography (CT) characteristics that may help oncologists evaluate the presence or absence of tumor spread in a non-invasive manner.
Monitoring Heart Rate Turbulence
Life-threatening abnormal heart beats (arrhythmias) are common in Boxer dogs affected with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC). While monitoring arrhythmias is possible with a Holter monitor, there are currently no guidelines for adjustment of medications/doses. Heart Rate Turbulence (HRT) is a measure of the change in heart rate after an abnormal beat occurs and has been identified in human medicine as a potential indicator of sudden death risk. Dr. Amara Estrada of the University of Florida intends to evaluate the utility of this marker for monitoring response to treatment and predicting sudden death in Boxer dogs.
Slowing the Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is common in cats, especially geriatric cats, affecting approximately 30% of cats 15 years of age and older. In most cases, the cause of the CKD is unknown but the disease is irreversible and progressive. Current treatment is aimed at slowing the progressive nature of the disease and making the patient feel better in the face of their reduced kidney function, however new treatments designed to improve survival time in cats with CKD are needed. Recently, retrospective studies in cats suggest that low‐dose, long‐term non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) treatment can slow CKD progression. Dr. Greg Grauer at the Kansas State University is evaluating NSAID treatment safety and efficacy by non‐invasively assessing several markers of kidney function and disease in client‐owned cats with naturally‐occurring CKD.
A New Drug for Cancer Treatment?
Of the 70 million pet dogs in the United States, it is estimated that one in four will develop cancer during their lifetime, and almost 50% over the age of 10 years will die as a result. Traditional treatment strategies for cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and various combinations. These therapies have markedly improved outcomes for veterinary patients. Sadly, however, despite concerted efforts to optimize the variety of treatments used in the fight against canine cancer, there remain many situations and patients in which long-term survival or a ‘cure’ is ultimately not attained. The ACVIM Foundation funded study, led by Dr. Ralene Wouda at Kansas State University, aims to evaluate the safety and establish the side-effect profile of the drug, Toceranib when administered in combination with the conventional high-dose chemotherapeutic agent, Carboplatin. This information will be used to pave the way for further efficacy trials. It is anticipated this drug combination will be beneficial in the treatment of several aggressive canine malignancies, including osteosarcoma.
Examining Treatment for Laryngeal Paralysis
Ageing Labrador Retrievers are often affected by a disorder causing paralysis of the vocal chords known as laryngeal paresis/paralysis (LP). This interferes with breathing, clearance of debris from the airways, swallowing, and can result in heat stroke, pneumonia and death. Treatment is surgical, which relieves the obstruction of the airways, but predisposes the dog to pneumonia, and is expensive. Medical treatment that improves vocal chord function could provide a cheaper and safer alternative. Clinicians have observed improvement of LP after administering a drug called doxepin. However, no controlled studies have examined whether this effect is real, how frequently patients improve, how much they improve, and for how long the improvement is sustained. Dr. Mark Rishniw of Cornell University will be working with Red Bank veterinary Hospital to determine the effect of doxepin administered for one month to Labrador Retrievers with non-critical LP and comparing it to a similarly administered placebo. They will assess the client’s impression of improvement using a standardized questionnaire as well as changes in vocal chord movement to determine whether this drug is effective in treating LP.