University launches cancer research partnership with Nuovo Biologics

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Auburn researchers and Nuovo Biologics, based out of Davie, Florida, have teamed up to research a new cancer therapy.

According to Bruce Smith, research professor, the therapy is in the form of a peptide, a biological molecule. He said the peptide originated from a component of cobra venom, however it is non-toxic.

Bruce said they want to find a way to make the peptide in a laboratory or a factory, however, so it will be consistent.

Bruce said the current study is focusing on the effect of  the peptide on oral melanoma in dogs. He said the cancer is common in both dogs and people.

:"If [the therapy] works in dogs, there's the possibility that it also might work in people," Bruce said. "We call it a one medicine approach, where we're thinking about both at the same time."

Bruce said the ultimate goal would to try the treatment in people if it is successful in people. He said they could broaden it to test the effect of the drug on other cancers, but it would still be considered a success if it only worked on one type of cancer.

"We think about cancer as a disease, and that's a mistake because each cancer type is different, and even if we talk about one type of cancer, it's really a mistake to think about it as a uniform single thing because each person or each individual animal's cancer is different," Bruce said. "It's great to think about a magic bullet that will kill all cancers, but it's not going to work that way."

Bruce said they want to improve cancer treatments.

"We want to do better than we're doing now," Bruce said.

Bruce said they could use the therapy on clients who come to Auburn veterinary hospital.

Bruce said Nuovo sought out Auburn researchers to collaborate on the project and it has been in the works for approximately three years.

"Now the collaboration, the interaction is real," Bruce said.

Rusty Arnold, associate professor of drug discovery and development, said he and his team are working to find the most effective dose of the drug. He said he is also trying to determine the best way to administer the drug, and said he is looking at intravenous administration.

"It's kind of an exciting time," Arnold said.

Arnold said they can take lessons from animal trials and apply them to treating humans.

"Everything we learn from these products to help treat dogs ... we can use them to treat humans," Arnold said.

Annette Smith, professor of clinical sciences, said they are looking at how the drug will affect or control tumor spread without surgery. She said she wants the treatment to help keep pets in remission.

"A cure is the Holy Grail," Annette said.

Bruce said dogs from all over the country to participate in the trials.

"People are very interested in doing everything they can for their pets, because they're members of the family," Bruce said.

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