One of Canada’s first studies of the potential use of cannabis for treating animal cancer is under way at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).
Funded by a Toronto animal health company, Prof. Sam Hocker, Department of Clinical Studies, will undertake a three-year study exploring the efficacy of cannabis for treating bladder cancer in dogs.
By learning more about the potential anti-cancer properties of cannabidiol (CBD), he hopes to help point the way to alternative pet therapies, especially for a common but hard-to-treat form of canine bladder tumour called urothelial carcinoma.
OVC dean Jeff Wichtel said this project will provide much-needed research on veterinary applications for cannabis.
“Veterinarians and pet owners have been eager for information on the medical applications for cannabis,” he said. “This groundbreaking work will help us learn about the role of cannabinoids in cancer and advance this field of medical research in Canada.”
The Toronto Star featured the research in a news article.
Urothelial carcinoma is responsible for two per cent of all cancers in all dog breeds. The tumour is extremely difficult to remove surgically. Clinicians rely on radiation and chemotherapy, but treatment results are highly variable; patients survive for between three months and two years.
Hocker hopes his study results will help other researchers develop canine cancer treatments.
In people, most bladder carcinomas are treated with surgery and immunotherapy; about 20 per cent of human cases are harder to treat. Hocker said the work with dogs “could ultimately help in designing potential therapeutic options for the more aggressive form of bladder cancer in humans.”
Medicinal cannabis is used to treat people, but currently no products are licensed in Canada for treating animals. Various groups, including the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine are lobbying for legislation to allow veterinarians to legally authorize medical cannabis.
Hocker will study the effects of CBD on bladder cancer cell lines. He hopes to learn whether the substance kills cancer cells and how it works, including whether the process involves endocannabinoid receptors occurring naturally in the body. He will also look at effects of using CBD along with radiation and chemotherapy.
For this project, OVC will receive one of Canada’s first grants for veterinary cannabis research from Grey Wolf Animal Health, a specialty animal health company focused on improving the lives and well-being of vets and pets in Canada. Along with funding, Grey Wolf will supply cannabidiol oil for the studies.
“We are thrilled to be supporting this study at a Canadian veterinary school,” said Ian Sandler, the company’s CEO and a 1994 veterinary grad from U of G. “This research at the University of Guelph will meet a growing need for treatments in the exciting and emerging field of veterinary cannabinoid medicine.”
The studies are also supported by OVC’s Pet Trust.
Hocker will work with clinical studies professors Anthony Mutsaers and Paul Woods, and Sarah Laliberte, who completed veterinary studies at OVC and will begin a doctor of veterinary science program at U of G this fall.