… and could lead to human clinical trials.
Morphogenesis Inc., a private biotechnology firm based in Tampa, Florida, announced an equine clinical trial for the direct injection of their vaccine ImmuneFX™ in 2014. Thirty horses diagnosed with melanomas will be the test subjects at an equine facility in Missouri.
What is a melanoma?
Melanomas are tumors. Their cause is unknown, but evidence points to them not being linked to sun exposure. Grey horses are most affected. More than 80% of grey horses over the age of 15 will develop at least one melanoma in their lifetime. Arabian, Percheron, Andalusian and Lipizzaner breeds seem predisposed to the disease.
Most melanomas are slow growing, benign, cosmetic nuisances. Malignant tumors, however, rapidly spread and can interfere with a horse’s daily life. For more details on the four types of melanomas check out this informative pamphlet from Purdue University.
What to look for?
Melanomas can be hard or soft, solitary or clustered. As growth develops, they can ulcerate and become infected. Underneath the tail and the sheath are the most common locations, but they can form anywhere on the horse. All suspect nodules should be immediately inspected by a veterinarian via aspirate or biopsy.
What are the current treatment options?
Surgical removal is the simplest method for removing a slow-growing isolated melanoma. Cryonecrosis (freezing) can be used to kill any remaining tumor cells after surgical removal. Chemotherapy with the drug Cisplatin has proved very successful when injected into the tumor and shows no toxicity for breeding stallions or broodmares. The oral drug Cimetidine, a histamine blocker, has also proven helpful in adding years to a horse’s life. Then there’s ImmuneFx.
Check out this video from ABC News for more information.
These photos are from a similar vaccine study occurring in Australia at the Adelaide Plains Equine Clinic.
Veterinarians are already using a ‘personalized’ form of the vaccine across the country, but this new version would be sold off-the-shelf. If the study is successful, it could pave the way for human clinical trials.