Melanoma vac­cine

Los Angeles Times - - THE PETS ISSUE -

The melanoma vac­cine is another area where vet­eri­nary medicine is ahead of hu­man medicine — and one that may have fu­ture hu­man ap­pli­ca­tions. Melanoma, a can­cer of the melanocytes (pig­ment-pro­duc­ing cells), is one of the most com­mon can­cers found in dogs. Un­like in peo­ple, in dogs it has noth­ing to do with sun ex­po­sure and is usu­ally found in the mouth. Since the melanoma vac­cine is not pre­ven­tive, the name is a bit of a mis­nomer, Proulx says. Sold un­der the trade name On­cept, it’s used to lengthen sur­vival time af­ter a pa­tient has un­der­gone surgery, chemo­ther­apy or ra­di­a­tion. The treat­ment is a form of im­munother­apy, in which a strand of DNA that’s en­coded for a pro­tein nor­mally found only on melanocytes is in­jected into a dog. The pro­tein stim­u­lates an in­creased im­mune re­sponse in the dog, trick­ing its im­mune sys­tem into at­tack­ing the can­cer­ous melanocytes. On­cept costs about $2,800 for a se­ries of four shots.

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