Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Clinical Trials Offer Hope for the Future


Pet Column for the week of November 3, 2008


Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Ashely Mitek
Information Specialist

There are few places in the world where, over the course of 24 hours, one might find a veterinary surgeon performing a hip replacement on a dog, a student learning how to read an EKG from a race horse, and a researcher helping to find a cure for bone cancer all in one building. But at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, which is one of only 28 veterinary schools in the country, it's just another day.

Dr. Laura Garrett is a veterinary oncologist at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana. After attending veterinary school for four years, she went on to complete an internship and a residency program in veterinary oncology. Now she is one of approximately 100 veterinary oncologists in the country and just one of many veterinary specialists at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Our mission is to provide the best care to animals and owners, as well as further the science of veterinary medicine," she explains. Along with seeing patients and teaching students, Dr. Garrett is currently conducting a clinical trial to help discover a better treatment for dogs with osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, as it is more commonly known.

"We can help current and future patients by investigating therapies that are better than those we currently have," mentions Dr. Garrett. Although it may not be intuitive, several of the medications used in clinical trials in veterinary schools go on to become FDA-approved drugs for human use. For example, Dr. Garrett explains that, "There is currently a melanoma vaccine licensed for use in dogs and now they are looking into developing one for people."

Clinical trials for pets are hard to come by since private veterinary practices usually do not have the time and infrastructure that is necessary for such an undertaking. While human clinical trials can be found in thousands of hospitals across the country, veterinary clinical trials are primarily limited to the veterinary teaching hospitals in the United States.

Every patient that comes to the teaching hospital certainly does not have to take part in a clinical trial. But either way, all animals will be seen by a fourth-year student and a resident or an intern that is a licensed veterinarian and a senior clinician will be involved to oversee all treatments. "By coming to the hospital and/or participating in a clinical trial, owners receive the highest level of care and also help to increase the knowledge of a specific field for future patients," says Dr. Garrett. Pet owners also have the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping to educate a student for their future as a veterinarian.

Currently, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital has nine clinical trials ongoing. They range in focus from arthritis and dermatology, to rehabilitation and feline kidney disease. It is worth noting that animals enrolled in clinical trials do not stay at the hospital, but live with their owners as they normally would. In addition, it is not uncommon for patients enrolled in a trial to have expenses reduced or completely covered.

Information about all trials happening in the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital can be found by visiting www.vetmed.illinois.edu/vth, and clicking on the "clinical trials" link along the left.