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updated: 8/6/2013 4:11 PM

U of I canine cancer drug to be tried on people

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  • University of Illinois chemistry Professor Paul Hergenrother, left, and Tim Fan, a veterinary oncologist, stand with Fan's dog, Hoover, which was among those used in a trial to test the anti-cancer drug PAC-1.

      University of Illinois chemistry Professor Paul Hergenrother, left, and Tim Fan, a veterinary oncologist, stand with Fan's dog, Hoover, which was among those used in a trial to test the anti-cancer drug PAC-1.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

URBANA, Ill. -- An anti-cancer drug for dogs being tested at the University of Illinois is showing some promise and could soon be tried out on humans.

Chemistry Professor Paul Hergenrother developed the drug compound known as PAC-1 in 2005 and has been testing it since then. The drug has helped many of the dogs involved in the research, he told The News-Gazette in Champaign.

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Phil Meyer of Springfield believes his golden retriever, Blaze, likely lived longer with cancer than she otherwise would have because of the drug.

"It gave us an extra year, year-and-a-half with our pet," Meyer said. "If we'd done nothing, she wouldn't have lasted a month. With the chemo and the PAC, it did a great deal of help for her, more than anything else."

The drug, Hergenrother said, essentially causes cancer cells to self-destruct by targeting an enzyme found in many types of cancer.

"It gives cancer cells a signal to commit suicide," he said.

Once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration signs off on the idea, human trials would be conducted on patients with brain cancer, which is particularly difficult to treat.

In the meantime, treatment of dogs will continue, Hergenrother said.

He and other researchers working with him say they began working with dogs because they develop cancer in ways similar to humans, making them good model for people.

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