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ASU professor awarded $6.4M grant to test canine cancer vaccine

(Flickr Photo/PAHO)

PHOENIX — A $6.4 million grant was awarded to ASU professor Stephen Albert Johnston to test a new canine cancer vaccine.

The multi-year grant, given by the Open Philanthropy Project, will test the effectiveness of a new vaccine in preventing any types of cancer in dogs. The trial will be the largest interventional canine clinical trial ever conducted.

The new vaccine, known as a multi-valent frameshift peptide, or FSP, vaccine, was developed over the last ten years by Johnston and his team, it has already been tested in mice and is shown to be safe in dogs.

At least 800 owners’ pets will test the efficacy of the vaccine to prevent the illness.

“Our goal has always been, that if this is possible, we should at least try it,” Johnston told ASU News.

Along with being a professor in the life sciences department, Johnston is the director Biodesign Center for Innovations in Medicine for ASU and CEO of Calviri, Inc., a cancer vaccine company.

Cancer is the current leading cause of death in pet dogs. Some breeds have a very high diagnosis rate, up to 40 percent. Because cancer in canines is very similar to humans, those involved in the project believe it could help combat cancer in humans.

“We are fairly confident that if the vaccine works in dogs, it could work in people,” said Luhui Shen, senior science director for the project.

According to a World Health Organization fact sheet published in 2017, cancer causes approximately 8.8 million deaths worldwide each year. With some treatment costing $200,000 or more, Johnston hopes to change that.

“If the vaccine works it should be inexpensive enough that everyone in the world could get it.”

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